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Environment secretary snubs meeting with flood-hit community

Tory MP Theresa Villiers ducks out of meeting with Ban the Burn campaigners during visit to Calder Valley

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Theresa Villiers snubbed a meeting with local residents when she visited two flood-hit communities in Yorkshire today.

And every Tory MP in 2016 still in Parliament today and mewling words of sympathy to their flood-hit constituents voted against an increase in flood defence spending four years ago.

Fire and rescue services battling Storm Ciara have had their annual funding cut by £141.5 million over the last four years.

The fire service cuts were revealed by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) as the government released its plans for the next round of local government funding.

Ms Villiers visited the Calder Valley constituency of Tory MP Craig Whittaker in West Yorkshire today.

Communities in Calder Valley were the worst-hit in the UK on Sunday, with villages and small towns adjacent to the River Calder swamped for the third time, including Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge.

Local residents from the “Ban the Burn” campaign expected to meet her but were snubbed. They are campaigning against the burning of moorland by landowners to create ideal breeding conditions for grouse.

Burning the moors destroys water-retaining moss meaning rainwater runs straight off the moors contributing to flooding.

The landowners, who receive taxpayer-funded subsidies, also dig ditches to drain moorland, creating perfect channels for flood water to rush down hillsides.

Dongria Konde, who took part in today’s Ban the Burn protest, told the Morning Star: “Theresa Villiers was supposed to visit Mytholmroyd.

"Craig Whittaker’s office told us that we would be able to see her but then they changed the venue at the last minute. Nobody told us, and it was a closed meeting so we could not get to see her.

“We stood for two hours in the rain, hailstones and the cold. We had briefing sheets to show her.”

As reported by the Morning Star, two weeks after the Boxing Day floods of 2015 Mr Whittaker voted against a proposed increase in annual spending on flood defences.

Lack of funds has delayed completion of flood defences in Mytholmroyd in his constituency.

Mr Whittaker has also voted 17 times against action to prevent climate change.

In the North of England where communities have suffered severe flooding three times in seven years, four fire and rescue services have had £16 million cut from their budgets since 2016.

West Yorkshire lost £4.8 million (11 per cent), Cumbria lost £1.5m (15 per cent), Lancashire lost £3.8m (12 per cent), and Greater Manchester lost £5.9m (more than 10 per cent).

On Sunday and Monday firefighters were called out to flooding, water rescues, fallen debris, damaged property and other incidents resulting from Storm Ciara, while emergency fire control rooms were swamped with calls, the union said.

Emergency services are now bracing themselves for Storm Dennis which is expected to hit the UK on Saturday.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters are facing a battering from the weather, but years of relentless cuts have undermined our ability to handle major weather events like Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis.

“We keep getting told that these are ‘once in a generation’ or ‘once in a century’ events – well, we were told that just three months ago when floods hit in November.

“Climate change is only going to make things worse, but funding for those on the front line has been slashed.”

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