Leeds MP Rachel Reeves demands Government "stops gambling" with residents' safety and funds vital flood defence work

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has urged the Government to "stop gambling with people's livelihoods and safety" and pay the £23m shortfall for critical flood defence work in the city.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 5:00 pm

Ms Reeves has written a letter to Chancellor Sajid Javid today - in the wake of the weekend's flooding and high water levels caused by Storm Ciara - urging him to guarantee the money is made available in his March Budget.

She said the cash is needed "as swiftly as possible", adding: "Leeds cannot rely on luck to avoid serious flood damage forever."

As reported in yesterday's YEP, Leeds was battered over the weekend by Storm Ciara, with the River Aire spilling over its banks in places, railway lines at Kirkstall Forge closed and businesses evacuated.

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Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has written to the Chancellor to demand he pays the 23m to the city in his March Budget. Picture: Tony Johnson

It was a worrying close-call for the city, still recovering from the devastating Boxing Day floods in 2015 which saw almost 3,500 residential and commercial buildings damaged.

The YEP has joined calls for the Government to fund the £23m still needed to deliver the £112m flood alleviation scheme in full and provide the city with the highest level of protection.

In her letter today, Ms Reeves said: "Had water levels risen just a few centimetres higher, we could easily have suffered flooding on a similar scale to the terrible floods that my constituents suffered just over four years ago. This weekend, Leeds had a close escape."

She added: "The Government must stop gambling with people's livelihoods and safety by continuing to delay these vital flood defences."

Kirkstall Bridge where the railway line flooded following Storm Ciara. Picture Bruce Rollinson

She urged Chancellor Sajid Javid to "honour the promises" made by his ministerial colleagues and "guarantee the necessary funds are available to fully fund the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme in your Budget in March to deliver this scheme as swiftly as possible".

The YEP has approached the Treasury for comment.

The £23m shortfall for the city's flood defences:

During the 2015 Boxing Day flood, almost 3,500 residential and commercial buildings in Leeds were damaged.

In its aftermath, Leeds City Council drew up a £112m Flood Alleviation Scheme to protect the city from a repeat of the disaster.

However there is currently a funding shortfall of £23m needed to deliver the scheme in full.

The funding total currently agreed will pay for defence work designed to protect Leeds against a one-in-100 chance of flooding in any given year.

But the 2015 flood was equivalent to a one-in-200 year disaster and council chiefs and politicians have been calling on the Government to fund the £23m shortfall and boost the city's flood defences to protect against the devastation seen four years ago.