GEORGE Osborne has promised to “do what it takes” to protect West Yorkshire communities from a repeat of the Boxing Day floods during a visit to the region today.
The Chancellor defended his Budget pledge to provide better flood defences in Leeds, York and the Calder Valley against criticism that the money promised is less than needed and the projects will take years to deliver.
Speaking during a visit to Garforth, Mr Osborne said: “I’m making a very clear commitment to the people of Leeds, to the people of West Yorkshire, that we will do what it takes to give them the flood defences needed to protect us from the very unusual weather we see these days. the river levels were much higher than they have been in our recent history.
“That means tens of millions of pounds into the flood defences in Leeds, we are going head with phase two of that scheme but when the work is ready on phase three we will be able to go ahead with that as well so it is all going to be supported.”
Mr Osborne’s Budget promise that Yorkshire would share in £150 million was given only a cautious welcome in the region on Wednesday given the cost of a comprehensive flood defence scheme for Leeds alone has previously been put at around £180 million.
The Budget cash included £35m towards the £65m cost of the next phase of flood defence works proposed for Leeds with the Treasury suggesting more funding commitments are likely to follow as the scheme is developed further.
Mr Osborne was at St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School, in Garforth, where he had breakfast with pupils before watching netball and gymnastics demonstrations.
He was highlighting his surprise Budget policy to introduce a new tax designed to cut sugary drink consumption which will generate cash for sport in schools.
Meanwhile, Leeds Council pledged today to work closely with local authorities in four other northern cities to deliver Mr Osborne’s transport strategy.
The leaders of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield councils signed a joint commitment to work collaboratively with the Government to deliver an economic vision for the North of England.
In a joint statement they said that it could only be achieved through “sustained long-term investment in people, places and infrastructure”.
The statement added that it would work with “every part of the north” to meet their shared objectives.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, added: “Closer links will enable the great northern cities to compete not against each other but together at scale on a national and international stage. We need to redress a legacy of underinvestment in the North and capitalise on our existing strengths. It won’t happen overnight but we are all determined to deliver it.”