- Politics and Social Issues
The Christmas Floods of 2015: why the Tory Government was to blame
Cuts to the Environment Agency
Of course it's impossible for any government to control the weather; it's impossible to stop heavy rain. However, it's not impossible for governments to listen to experts and officials when making decisions on budgets.
According to the trade Union UNISON, cuts to the Environment Agency budget have totalled £137.7million since 2009-10. This as a time when experts have predicted more unpredictable weather and sea levels continue to rise.
In fact, in 2015 at a time when inflation increased by 11%: in real terms, the Environment Agency grant was cut by more than a quarter.
In February 2015 the Government were warned by the the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) select committee that the UK was suffering an underinvestment of £600million in flood defences. It was expected that Local Authorities - already facing huge budget cuts themselves - were expected to find the extra money.
In December 2015 the Government were caught napping as areas including parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester were hit by floods that some areas had never experienced before.
Failure to listen to the warning from Professor Colin Mellors
In October 2015, Professor Colin Mellors (the man appointed by the Government to advise them on flood defences in Yorkshire) warned the Tories that because of “ever-tighter budgets”, the Yorkshire region flood committee would probably “be asked in the new year to consider sites where maintenance might be formally discontinued”.
The result was that MPs representing Northern constituencies where flooding had occurred turned their anger on David Cameron and George Osborne for neglecting defences outside the south of England, and accused them of creating a north-south divide in funding and flood stratagy.
Prime Minister David Cameron's response to criticism was lacking
In response to criticism of his Government at the time (for the cuts made to the Environment Agency's budget), David Cameron's response was almost an acceptance that the UK was paying a price for a lack of investment in flood defences.
"Whenever these things happen, you should look at what you spend, what you’ve built … clearly we should look again at whether there’s more we can do" said Cameron.
He continued to post a Tweet:
"I'll ensure that like Cumbria & Lancashire, Yorkshire will get more of the protection needed to deal with floods."
To the people in the affected areas that sentiment must surely feel like too little, too late. It's not surprise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, wasn't chosen to visit the affected areas. That may have been too much smugness for the flood victims to handle.