Declare a national emergency in response to floods, Corbyn urges PM

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Boris Johnson to declare a national emergency and hold a COBRA meeting in response to flooding across Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

The Labour leader has written to Johnson, telling him to “hold a COBRA meeting and take personal charge of the government’s response to the devastating flooding we have seen over the past few days”.

Corbyn is demanding that “every resource is being utilised to aid those that need it and protect against future potential floods” and “the insurance industry fulfils its responsibilities”.

Suggesting that the Tories would treat its heartlands differently, he added: “If this had happened in Surrey, not Yorkshire or the East Midlands, it seems far more likely that a national emergency would have been declared.”

Labour Party analysis reveals that flood response services have faced severe cuts under the Conservatives. Fire and rescue services have seen cuts of £300m in real terms and frontline staff numbers for flood response services have been reduced by 23%.

In South and West Yorkshire, firefighters have been cut by 25% and 36% respectively while Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire have seen cuts of 11% and 23%. The Environment Agency has lost 20% of its staff.

The Labour Party says the agency’s ability to respond to flooding incidents has been compromised by insufficient funding, with most incident response roles now filled on a voluntary basis by staff working overtime.

Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s letter.

Dear Prime Minister,

Over the past few days we have both visited those affected by the devastating floods across Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

You’ll know that hundreds of homes have been flooded and over a thousand properties have now been evacuated. Our hearts go out to those affected, including the friends and family of Annie Hall.

With heavy rain expected in parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands, in areas that are already suffering from flooding, hundreds of further flood warnings are in place. Rightly there will be hundreds of thousands of people across these regions who remain concerned about their families and livelihoods.

With this in mind, I am writing to urge you to hold a COBRA meeting and take personal charge of the government’s response to the devastating flooding we have seen over the past few days. In addition, we need full assurance from the Government that every resource is being utilised to aid those that need it and protect against future potential floods.

With dozens of flood warnings still in place, I have to disagree with your assessment from the weekend that this is not a ‘national emergency.’ If this had happened in Surrey, not Yorkshire or the East Midlands, it seems far more likely that a national emergency would have been declared. Every year we don’t act means higher flood waters, more homes ruined and more lives at risk due to climate change.

The Government also must ensure that the insurance industry fulfils its responsibilities. In addition, going forward the industry must continue to provide insurance at an affordable level to householders.

I urge you again to hold a COBRA meeting to ensure all is being done to help the families affected.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Corbyn

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