Lancaster and Morecambe’s MPs at loggerheads over flood response

Flooding in Chapel Street, Lancaster in December. Photo by Saffron Shirreffss
Flooding in Chapel Street, Lancaster in December. Photo by Saffron Shirreffss

Lancaster and Morecambe’s Labour and Conservative MPs have criticised their opposing leaders following questions raised about flooding during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

Many businesses and households in Lancaster are struggling to get back on their feet a month after the extensive flooding in the city on December 5, with costs expected to total tens of millions of pounds as victims wait to hear back from their insurance companies.

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said Jeremy Corbyn’s performance during the first PMQs of 2016 on Wednesday, January 6, was “vacuous” based on erroneous (incorrect) cuts in Yorkshire, which attempted to hide the division in his own party.

While MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood Cat Smith said Prime Minister David Cameron had ignored genuine questions from Mr Corbyn on why the government has cut vital flood defences.

Mr Morris said the government’s response to the recent flooding has been “quite robust”, and that billions of pounds would be invested in flood defences over the next six years.

He said: “The government’s response to the recent flooding has been quite robust and there are various schemes being funded by government through Lancaster City Council which gives grants for temporary accommodation, for businesses affected by flooding and for flood prevention improvements to be made to homes affected by flooding to protect them in the future.

“Over the next six years £2.3bn will be invested in flood defences, a real terms increase on the £1.7bn invested in the last Parliament, which was in turn a real terms increase on the £1.5bn spent between 2005 and 2010.

“This will fund 1,500 projects protecting 300,000 homes, 420,000 acres of farmland, 205 miles of railway and 340 miles of road.

“This is on top of the 250,000 homes and 580,000 acres of agricultural land better protected in the last Parliament.

“Combined with previous investment, by the end of the decade 550,000 homes and businesses will be protected better, preventing a total of £30bn in economic damages.

“I have also been assured that flood maintenance spending will be protected in real terms over the course of this Parliament.”

Ms Smith said she was “extremely disappointed” that David Cameron chose to ignore Jeremy Corbyn’s genuine questions on “why the Government has cut vital flood defence programmes which local authorities had told him were vital to defend their communities”.

She said: “The Prime Minister had been warned by the Committee on Climate Change that it needed to act to address the increasing number of houses at flood risk.

“Instead, since taking office he cut funding for flood protection by £100m in 2010, cut 20 per cent of the Environment Agency’s staff and cut maintenance spending by six per cent in real terms between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

“We need a Prime Minister who will take the decisions necessary to protect our population from floods at a time when we are likely to see more extreme weather due to changes in our climate. Disappointingly at Prime Minister’s Questions David Cameron seemed more interesting in making cheap political points.”