Ahead of the budget announcement today Laura Hall outlines why we need real action rather than empty promises from the government to tackle flooding.
It was officially the wettest February on UK record. The UK’s flood-hit regions, including Shropshire, South Wales, Yorkshire and Worcestershire, were inundated by rising water levels as storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge deluged local communities.
Considering that many constituencies within these regions had provided the mandate for the new Conservative government, whose Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously visited flood-hit South Yorkshire whilst campaigning in the General Election and committed to supporting affected communities “in any way”, many expected funding, support and overall a stronger response from the government. Instead, they have been let down by a government strategy on flooding that is not fit for purpose.
Despite Johnson caving to pressure and eventually visiting flood-hit Bewdley on Sunday 8 March, his previous reticence to adequately address problems caused by flooding, unlock more funding and lacklustre response to the emergency encapsulates the government’s poor management of this key climate crisis issue.
Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard has emphasised the need for money allocated to flood defences in the forthcoming budget to be given to the regions that really need it rather than London and the South East, as well as calling for an independent review into flooding and the lessons learned to deal with future storms.
The climate emergency will only continue to produce more extreme weather and more needs to be done to help communities to adapt to meet the challenges and address the devastation caused by flooding. We need a government that genuinely cares about flooding and consistently monitors a volatile situation, rather than making the most of it for political expediency.
The government’s flooding investment promises made in the budget need to actually be translated into real action to solve the issue. Too often they have used flooding for PR, and previous promises to assist communities have turned out to be merely lip service. Instead, the reality is that under Conservative government, poor management, lack of funding and continuing to build on flood plains has exacerbated damage caused by flooding. It is clearer than ever that we need to continue to hold the government to account on their ineffective response to this vital issue.
Rather than treating the climate crisis as a future problem that can be swept under the carpet, Johnson and the government must take immediate action to support flood-hit communities affected by flooding instead of using them for cheap photo opportunities. Their response to date has highlighted their attitude to both the climate crisis and the voters that won them the election – useful for electioneering, but otherwise an inconvenience. This is a part-time government that is out of its depth and flooded communities deserve better.
Laura Cunliffe-Hall is Communications Officer for the Young Fabians Environment Network. Laura works for a communications consultancy, specialising in stakeholder engagement and public affairs. She writes in a personal capacity.
She tweets at @LauraHall1995