JEREMY Corbyn met Leeds business owners as they began to come to terms with the huge financial cost of the Boxing Day storms.
And at the end of a day when he witnessed the huge clean up operations in both Leeds and York, he declared that Yorkshire was facing the consequences of cuts to environment budgets, which had left it “vulnerable” to the devastating affects of dramatic weather events.
The Labour leader said: “The scale of cuts to environment budgets has left Yorkshire vulnerable to dramatic weather events. Leeds has particularly felt the impact of those cuts. A project by the council to improve flood defence was cut by the government in 2011 and four years later we see the consequences.
“During my visit I have been overwhelmed by the response of the communities helping those affected by the floods.
“In Leeds I met young and dedicated volunteers and I’m tempted to say that if the government showed as much community spirit as the volunteers I met then Yorkshire would not be facing the problems it is facing today.
“I really hope the government takes a step back and looks at what their cuts regime is doing.”
On his visit to flood-hit Kirkstall Road, he heard how Viva Cuba bar and restaurant had lost £15,000 of stock in its flooded basement, while at Azram’s Restaurant next door, owner Azram Chaudhry said he had been given an initial estimate for the damage totalling £500,000.
Mr Chaudhry, who has operated the restaurant for 27 years, also runs a separate eatery up the road and that too had been badly hit, with flood water filling the basements, destroying stock, contaminating equipment and knocking out the electrics.
Mr Chaudhry told Mr Corbyn that the efforts of local volunteers had been a huge help.
“On the first day alone we had over 40 people come down to help. ”
Accompanied by Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves and local councillors, Mr Corbyn also called into the AQAQ clothing warehouse and The Climbing Lab, a new boulder climbing centre which was due to open for the first time this month.
Hannah Mason, of The Climbing Lab, was one of two staff inside the building when the flood waters rose outside leaving them trapped inside before they broke out. The business now hopes to open in mid-February.
Tom Burridge, of AQAQ, told of how after four days new faces were still turning up to help.
A temporary nerve centre for co-ordinating voluntary help has sprung up at another affected property, the Ladybird Project on Aire Place, which only opened as an arts space on December 21.
Phil Marken who runs the project, said: “We’re doing everything we can, from sweeping water out to mopping, disinfecting and doing rubbish runs.”