Fury as flood envoys scrapped by Government

Flashback to the flooding in Kirkstall Road, Leeds, last DecemberFlashback to the flooding in Kirkstall Road, Leeds, last December
Flashback to the flooding in Kirkstall Road, Leeds, last December
THE RUSH to appease the victims of this winter's catastrophic flooding has unravelled after just seven months as the Government ditches its regional flooding tsars.

It is understood two ‘flood envoys’, who were announced in a fanfare of Government support for storm ravaged communities following the Boxing Day storms, will no longer be needed.

The envoys were due to oversee the response to flood damaged homes and businesses and track progress of new measures to try and alleviate future damage across the North of England.

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Labour MP Rachel Reeves claims disbanding with the jobs is does not send a positive message about the Government’s commitment to Leeds’ recovery.

She said: “We are no more prepared for a flood than we were six months ago. I recognise you can’t build flood defences in six months but there doesn’t even seem to be a plan. In the meantime many businesses haven’t been able to re-open or have relocated altogether.

“I think a lot of people are questioning whether the warm words we heard from the Government at the time of last year’s floods would be followed up with action and now we know that even the people responsible for taking this forward have gone.”

Leeds City Council is currently awaiting the result of a £3m feasibility study into the second phase of a flood defence scheme which was granted by then Environment Secretary Liz Truss after lobbying by the city’s MPs.

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They are also keen to see a promised report by senior Tory Oliver Letwin on the country’s flood resilience which is due to be published this summer.

With the sacking of Mr Letwin in Theresa May’s recent reshuffle and the appointment of a new Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, an August release for the National Flood Resilience Review is now likely.

Robert Goodwill, Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, was appointed as Yorkshire’s Flooding Envoy on January 3 alongside then Flooding Minister Rory Stewart, who would carry out a similar role in Cumbria and Northumberland. Their brief was to understand the impact of flooding in affected areas and report directly to the Prime Minister.

In the recent cabinet reshuffle Mr Goodwill MP, who was a transport minister, moves to the Home Office as Minister for Immigration and Mr Stewart moves from his position as an Environment Minister to a Minister in the Department for International Development.

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Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Residents and businesses in Leeds affected by the devastation of Storm Eva will rightly be concerned the new Government is not giving flood prevention in Leeds the priority it desperately needs.”

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift said the authority was looking for assurances from the new Government that it would deliver on promises made in the aftermath of the floods by previous Environment Secretary Liz Truss and then Floods Minister Rory Stewart.

Ms Reeves, Councillor Blake and Councillor Swift will each be writing to Andrea Leadsom as a matter of urgency to get clarification on the plans in place to ensure homes and businesses are better protected in the future.

Coun Swift has also invited Andrea Leadsom to visit the area.

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The Yorkshire Post has contacted the office of Robert Goodwill MP for a comment.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are standing squarely behind the communities and families hit by last year’s floods - building on the work of the Flood Envoys. That is why we are investing more than £400m in flood defence schemes in Yorkshire.

“This is on top of more than £250 million in funding to help affected householders and businesses in the North, to make sure they are getting all the support they need for the clean-up and recovery.”