Government response to severe flooding woeful, Labour and Lib Dems say

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Opposition leaders have branded the government’s response to the severe flooding hitting parts of the country as “woeful” and accused it of not taking it seriously enough.

Severe flooding hit several areas in Yorkshire and the East Midlands last week, with parts around the River Don near Doncaster worst affected after the river burst its banks.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the government’s response as “woeful” while Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said it was not taking it as seriously enough.

Corbyn said if the flooding had happened in Surrey in the South East, it “would have been a very different story”.

Autumn weather Nov 9th 2019
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to meet residents affected by flooding (Danny Lawson/PA)

He said Johnson had only called a Cobra meeting on Tuesday after he had written to the prime minister demanding one.

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Speaking at a rally in Blackpool, Corbyn added: “More than a thousand homes have been evacuated and one woman, Annie Hall, has lost her life. Our hearts go out to her family and friends.

“The Conservative government’s response to the floods has been woeful.

“If this had happened in Surrey instead of Yorkshire and the East Midlands, I think it would have been a very different story.

A view of the water at Fishlake
A view of the water at Fishlake (Richard McCarthy/PA)

“When terrible floods struck the South in 2014, David Cameron rightly said: ‘Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed, we will spend it’.

“This time, Boris Johnson waited five days before calling a Cobra meeting – and only after I wrote to him demanding it.

“We now need a guarantee from the government that the Bellwin money is made immediately available to local government.”

Annie Hall, the former high sheriff of Derbyshire, died after she was swept away by water on Friday in Darley Dale, near Matlock.

Corbyn will return to south Yorkshire to meet families and volunteers on Tuesday afternoon.

Downpours last week meant several areas in Yorkshire and the East Midlands were struck by a month’s worth of rain in a single day.

Around half the 700 residents of Fishlake, near Doncaster, left the village and those who stayed behind have faced waist-high floods.

Visiting Fishlake on Tuesday, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson accused the government of not taking it as seriously as it should.

Flooding in the North of England
Jo Swinson meeting people affected by flooding (Danny Lawson/PA).

She added: “It should be declaring a national emergency so they can open up the ability to apply to the EU for the emergency funds that are available at times of extreme floods.

“They are not yet doing that and they should be doing that.”

She said the party’s policy of spending £5 billion on flood defences was necessary, particularly as the climate emergency would make such events more common.

The Environment Agency said it had more than 200 staff on the ground in south Yorkshire supporting communities affected by the “devastating flooding”.

But it warned the flood risk remained high, with heavier bands of rainfall expected on Thursday and Friday.

Five severe flood warnings from the Environment Agency remain in place around Doncaster, warning of a danger to life in the areas around the River Don at Bentley, Fishlake, Kirk Bramwith, South Bramwith and Willow Bridge Caravan Site.

Twenty-nine flood warnings are in place across the country, with 12 around the River Don.

The Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings for rain in south Wales and parts of the south west on Wednesday and the Midlands, parts of Wales and the south east on Thursday.

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