Jeremy Corbyn writes to PM for action on floods

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to the Prime Minister asking him to reconsider the 12 mile flood defence plan for the River Aire.

Mr Corbyn claims the Government has not painted a clear picture of its spending on flood defence schemes and has failed to protect the Environment Agency's staffing levels.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visiting Leeds during the floods with Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visiting Leeds during the floods with Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.

He singled out the year 2011 - 2012 as evidence of cut-backs as flood defence projects in line for funding fell from 630 to 356.

In that year Leeds had hoped to get the green-light on a £180m scheme along the River Aire, that would have covered a 12 mile stretch of river.

He also said the Environment Agency has cut its staff by 20%, and they now have 800 fewer flood risk management staff than in 2010.

The letter, which was co-written by Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Kerry McCarthy, said: "One of the major projects to lose out was the proposed flood defence scheme in Leeds along a 12-mile stretch of the River Aire.

"Your Government branded the scheme “hugely expensive” at the time and refused to fund it. 1,000 homes in Leeds were hit by devastating floods over Christmas, and your Government has still refused to re-instate the cancelled project, opting instead for a cheaper version which will not cover the entire area at risk and will not be complete until 2017.

"Surely this is a case of too little, too late from a Government that claimed money was “no object” when it came to flooding?"

The Government say they have spent more than the Labour Government and the Coalition Government on flood defences, with the spend now at £2.3bn. The have already invested £100m in defences in Yorkshire and will dedicate a further £280m over the next six years, the Prime Minister announced.

A Downing Street spokesperson said that the larger River Aire project was not cancelled, because it had never been adopted. However £33m of Government money is going into a much smaller flood defence scheme in the heart of the city centre.

The letter also demands an urgent review of the country's flood defences, beyond the assessment currently being carried out by the Government.

The letter said: "Your Government has ignored warnings from the Committee on Climate Change that it needed to develop a strategy to address the increasing flood risk, and warnings from the Association of Drainage Authorities that your cuts have put homes and businesses in danger.

"We hope that you will now accept the advice offered by experts like the Committee on Climate Change and will swap your insufficient, internal review into flood defence for an independent, urgent and completely transparent review."