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FLOOD defences would be given a £5.6 billion surge under Labour, the party pledged today while criticising the government’s response to severe flooding in South Yorkshire.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the government’s response as “woeful.”
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.
A woman died and thousands of homes were evacuated.
Five severe flood warnings from the Environment Agency (EA) remain in place around Doncaster.
Mr Corbyn said if the flooding had happened in Surrey, it “would have been a very different story.”
He added: “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.”
The government’s emergency Bellwin scheme reimburses councils for costs they incur during a response to flooding.
Mr Corbyn visited South Yorkshire to meet families and volunteers today afternoon.
According to analysis by Labour, Tory spending on flood defences overwhelmingly favours the south-east, where spending rose by 14.5 per cent — while falling by up to 15 and 14 per cent in the north-west and Yorkshire between 2016 and 2018.
Labour’s fund — to be focused on the north-west, Yorkshire and the east midlands — would be paid for through its £250bn Green Transformation Fund, and would increase capital spending to the amount that the EA estimates is needed.
Mr Corbyn said: “This last week has confirmed what we’ve seen over the last decade: the Tories always ignore the north’s needs.
“We need to do everything we can to help those families who have already suffered, and protect communities from further potential flooding.”
The Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack welcomed the funding plan, which he said “must go hand-in-hand with a properly resourced fire and rescue service that has a statutory duty to respond to flooding.”
Since the Tories came to power, fire and rescue services across Britain have been cut by over £300 million in real terms, with a loss of 23 per cent of front-line staff.
South and West Yorkshire firefighters have been cut by 25 and 36 per cent respectively.
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