YEP Comment (January 26): '˜Floods: Don't let Leeds down again, Mr Cameron...'
PRIME MINISTER, you never took the trouble to don your wellies for the obligatory photocall here - as you did in York. And in truth we're not too fussed about that.Becauses we believe actions speak far more strongly than a picture opportunity.
But a month after winter storms devastated families and businesses in this fine city, it’s action that seems sorely lacking.
You’ll appreciate we are duty-bound to stand up for our readers and for this city. And you need to be aware of the anger and resentment over the inadequate nature of your Government’s response.
The valiant spirit in evidence in communities across Leeds in the immediate aftermath, speaks volumes about this city and its sense of community. The amount raised by the city to help flood victims, equally so.
But all the goodwill in the world won’t help the businesses in the city left without a future because there were no defences, because there was no insurance, because, frankly, none of this is in your back yard. Unfair? Let’s just say, then, that Leeds doesn’t demand preferential treatment, just fairness.
It remains perplexed that your Government could find the money in late 2014 to build new flood defences in the Thames Valley when a major scheme for Leeds – proposed after the devastating floods of 2007 to protect one of the engines of the UK’s economy – was put on hold because of spending cuts. We do not demand amends, just the following:
1) An independent audit of all spending on flood defences, and of the Environment Agency’s river maintenance strategy.
2) Immediate funding for a new feasibility study into a major scheme to protect Leeds – there was incredulity when Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss told city MPs that there was no contingency or flexibility in her budget to authorise such a study. This, after all, is the third largest city in the UK and we venture that the response would have been different if a city in the South faced a comparable risk.
3) Urgent talks with the insurance industry to help those property owners and businesses who can no longer afford insurance premiums.
4) A review of planning policies to ensure new homes are not built on land susceptible to flooding.
5) Greater support for flood-affected businesses. There is more you can do. And you know it (defer VAT payments, perhaps?).
Though your focus has moved away from here - until the next time - ours has not.
Please, do not let this city down again, Mr Cameron.