Yorkshire flooding summit; Ministers told ‘water does not respect boundaries’ after snub
It comes after Yorkshire political leaders wrote to Environment Secretary George Eustice – and Floods Minister Rebecca Pow – to express disquiet over the status of next Thursday’s long-awaited meeting.
A county-wide summit was agreed by Boris Johnson 10 months ago after he visited Fishlake in the aftermath of last November’s floods in South Yorkshire when the Government’s slow response to the devastation came under criticism.
The commitment was then reiterated by Mr Eustice when he toured flood-hit York in February just days after his elevation to the Cabinet. He, too, accepted that the whole county had been affected by flooding.
But, after months of pressure, a date for the gathering of key politicians and stakeholders – October 8 – was only set on Tuesday just 24 hours before Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis prepared to lead a Commons debate.
It also emerged that the summit will only cover South Yorkshire, prompting dismay from MPs and local authority leaders who also viewed Mr Eustice’s absence from the Commons exchanges as a ‘snub’ to the North.
The letter has been written by Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake and Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, in their capacity as co-chairs of the Yorkshire Leaders Board.
They tell the Ministers: “As you know, water does not respect boundaries. We believe it is vital that local and regional leaders and stakeholders from right across our county take part in order to inform a wider discussion about how to protect homes and businesses.”
They also say they’re amenable to a short delay if it helps officials with preparatory work.
Last night Mr Jarvis welcomed the intervention. “Yorkshire knows first-hand that water doesn’t respect boundaries,” he said.
“It’s why local and regional leaders have worked so closely together to protect homes and businesses across our county.
“We want to work constructively with the Government so we’re asking them to honour their original commitment to a Yorkshire-wide summit. The voices of all our communities that were devastated deserve to be heard.”
It’s still unclear who will be present at the South Yorkshire summit – it is understood that Yorkshire Water were only added to the list of attendees yesterday.
In the Commons, Ms Pow resisted calls by Mr Jarvis and others for the Government to hold a Yorkshire-wide summit as promised in order to bring about clearer policy co-ordination across the whole region.
Noting an increase in investment in flood defences – and observing that “Yorkshire is a huge place, as we all know” – she told the SCR mayor and Barnsley Central MP: “The meeting that the letter has gone out for is for South Yorkshire, and a raft of MPs have been invited to it.
“We have had a great deal of engagement with other MPs.”