Leeds: ‘A divided council can’t support a united city’

Aerial picture over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds.

Aerial picture over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds.

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Councillors in Leeds have voted to put on a united front today - and to collectively lobby the Government for more funding to protect the city from future flooding risks.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake is due to meet with Ministers this week to discuss the aftermath of the Boxing Day floods, and the devastation wreaked on communities and hundreds of businesses in the city.

DECEMBER 2015: Floodwater on Kirkstall Road. PIC: Tony Johnson

DECEMBER 2015: Floodwater on Kirkstall Road. PIC: Tony Johnson

And at the authority’s first full council meeting of 2016 today, she led an emergency debate to call for cross-party unity on the issue.

There were universal tributes to the hundreds of volunteers and council workers who spent much of the holiday period 
helping with the clean-up effort in flood affected areas like Kirkstall Road and parts of the city centre.

A White Paper Motion calling for further Government funding and committing to a cross-party agreement “to work with Government and other agencies to bring forward much needed comprehensive flood defence measures for Leeds without delay” was also passed.

The main opposition Conservative group attempted to put forward an amendment to the motion, which stressed the council must do more to bring forward its own ideas to mitigate the effects of flooding.

However party leader councillor Andrew Carter still backed moves to lobby the Government further.

Councillor Blake told the packed council chamber: “Let’s go to London with confidence we have got everyone behind us. We are determined to get the protection and funding our communities need.”

Responding to councillor Carter, she stressed: “We will not shirk our responsibility, but we are reliant on national planning policy.”

Lib Dem group leader Stewart Golton said the Government’s maths and funding formula should be based on households rather than houses, as many of the hundreds of businesses that were affected by the flooding in Leeds provide livelihoods for families.

He added; “We need the full funding package now. This is no longer a one in 200 years event. It’s looking like it could be one in a decade.”

Lucinda Yeadon, the council’s deputy leader and a ward councillor in Kirkstall, who has led a huge community clean-up effort, told the chamber the last time Kirkstall Road flooded was in 1866 and “never in living memory have we seen scenes that were brought to us on Boxing Day”.

“The destruction this has brought to livelihoods is unprecedented,” she said.

“What people in Leeds need and want is a united voice coming from its council chamber, across all benches, sending a strong message to Government.”

“Let’s not make this about point scoring, let’s stand together and show that, just as the city came together, we can also overcome political differences and stand united.

“A divided council can’t support a united community.”