'We have been working round the clock' - PM defends Government response to Yorkshire floods

The Prime Minister has defended the Government’s response to flooding in Yorkshire after visiting stricken areas today.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 1:34 pm
Boris Johnson speaks to the press on a visit to flood-hit parts of Yorkshire. Photo: PA

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post Boris Johnson insisted the Government had been working “round the clock” to help those impacted by devastating floods in places like Fishlake, South Yorkshire.

But when pushed on whether he would now describe the situation as a national emergency, he still declined to do so.

Mr Johnson praised the emergency services response and the communities which had stepped in to help, but he said he did not recognise Labour analysis which claimed spending on environmental protection had been cut by 14 per cent in Yorkshire between 2016/17 and 2017/18, while it had risen by 14.5 per cent in the South East.

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Jeremy Corbyn visited Doncaster yesterday. Photo: PA

Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn said: “This last week has confirmed what we’ve seen over the last decade: the Tories always ignore the North’s needs.

But Mr Johnson said: “I don’t recognise those figures at all because the figures I’ve seen show it’s £699 a head in this part of the world and something like £400 in the South, it varies across the country.”

He added: “This Government has invested more than the previous Labour government [in flood defences].”

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'You took your time, Boris' - residents in flood-hit South Yorkshire lash out at...

However Mr Johnson was accused by residents of doing nothing to help flood victims,

One resident in Stainforth told the PM: "I'm not very happy about talking to you so, if you don't mind, I'll just mope on with what I'm doing."

The woman, clutching a wheelbarrow alongside the troops sent to the area to help, added: "You've not helped us up to press. I don't know what you're here today for."

Another told him: "You've took your time Boris, haven't you?", to which Mr Johnson replied: "We've been on it round the clock."

Speaking to reporters at the scene, Mr Johnson said: "I perfectly understand how people feel and you can understand the anguish a flood causes.

"The shock of seeing your property engulfed by water is huge and also the anxiety of what may still be to come and I do thank the emergency services for everything they are doing."

Another local, Shelly Beniston, told the Prime Minister she had helped organise supply runs to the neighbouring village of Fishlake, another area to be hit by flooding.

She said: "We've had no authorities helping us. We didn't know where to start.

"We just used common sense basically."

Another man shook the Prime Minister's hand and said: "Help these people out. They definitely need it. Well done Boris."

Mr Johnson said some residents had raised issues with him over insurance and that “insurance companies have been changing their policies without letting people know”.

He said: “We’re making it very clear we will have a flood reinsurance scheme underwritten by Government.”

He added: “We’ve also been talking to Doncaster council making sure council tax is waived for those affected.”

Mr Johnson defended the five days it had taken him to visit Yorkshire, and said he had been in Matlock, Derbyshire on Friday.

“There’s been a round the clock response,” he said.

Mr Johnson arrived in the area as nearly 100 soldiers began assisting communities cut off by the flooding.

Personnel from the Light Dragoons laid down sandbags in Stainforth, attempting to shore up the village's bridge.

The help from the Army comes amid fears that further bad weather could be on the way on Thursday.

One official from the Environment Agency told Mr Johnson that an estimated 20mm to 30mm of rain was expected to fall in the next 24 hours.

The official said that 2019 had already seen the third wettest autumn on record, adding: "We need to look at what we need - particularly in the context of a changing climate."

There are 34 flood warnings still in place across England, in locations from Somerset and East Sussex in the South, to as far north as the Lower River Nidd near Harrogate in Yorkshire, and the Holderness Drain in east Yorkshire.

Seven flood alerts are also in place in Wales, where the Met Office is predicting further heavy rain on Wednesday.

But five severe "danger to life" warnings on the River Don in South Yorkshire have been downgraded.

The Met Office currently has two yellow rain warnings in place for Thursday, one in the southern half of the UK covering London, Oxford and Cardiff which is due to run all day.

The other in the North of England covers Sheffield, Lincoln and Nottingham, and is expected to last from 9am on Thursday to 3am on Friday.

Met Office spokeswoman Nicky Maxey warned that parts in the South West, such as Bristol, Bath and Gloucester, could see as much as 40mm to 60mm of rain.

Ms Maxey said that within the northern yellow warning between 10mm and 20mm of rain is expected, with some spots potentially seeing as much as 35mm to 45mm.

She told the PA news agency that drier, colder conditions can be expected towards the end of the working week.

Yesterday evening, the Prime Minister warned there could be further flooding across the country after chairing a meeting of the Government's emergency committee.

Mr Johnson also announced relief funding would be made available for those affected by the floods and said that funding for locals councils to help affected households would be made available to the tune of £500 per eligible household.

Up to £2,500 would be available for small to medium-sized businesses which have suffered severe impacts and which are not covered by insurance.

The PM also urged people in affected areas to heed the warnings of emergency services, after some residents in Fishlake remained in their homes despite being advised by Doncaster Council to evacuate.