Travelling back from the West Country after visiting relatives at New Year I saw at first hand the effects of Storm Henk. The already saturated ground meant the heavy rain had nowhere to go and soon roads became impassable and rivers and even canals overflowed their banks. It’s estimated that around 2,000 homes were flooded, the misery soon compounded by freezing weather.
Flooding brings a particular form of misery with homes and possessions damaged, having to move out to dry out and I’m told, an unforgettable stench. I worked with the local authority, Northumbrian Water and local residents to bring the Shiremoor Flood Relief scheme and I recall the distress on the faces of homeowners who had previously been flooded out.
It’s estimated that 6 million homes are prone to flooding and that figure is set to double in the next three decades. The response of the current Government is too little too late. They admit to only starting to plan in the week before Christmas. We would put in place COBRA style local resilience forums to bring local councils, central government, the emergency services and local communities together much earlier. We’d also put a Minister for Resilience into the Cabinet Office to coordinate action.
Current Ministers are out of their depth and the Environment Agency which plays a crucial role has had its funding slashed. Homes, businesses and farms are all paying the price, meaning less production and higher food costs. But actually with disruption and damage from flooding since 2010 costing £4 billion we’re all paying the price.