York flood risk and government support
February 20, 2020
“I welcome this week’s commitment by the Environment Secretary George Eustice to hold a special Yorkshire conference on our region’s flood risk situation, and am reassured by his acknowledgement that the county faces particular flooding issues that require addressing.
This meeting should provide an opportunity to discuss improved provision both for communities like Calderdale that have now been flooded twice in 5 years, and for areas like York who have to live with the permanent risk of flooding.
I understand the conference will bring together the Department of the Environment, the Environment Agency who manage our flood defences, local authorities and Members of Parliament, and I look forward to ensuring our city’s needs are heard when this takes place.
On Tuesday I was very glad to see the government activate the Flooding Recovery Framework, unlocking financial support for flooded households and businesses, including grants per household and business, a council tax discount, and business rates relief. This is in addition to the previously-activated Bellwin scheme, which allows local authorities addressing flooding to claim back 100% of additional costs they have incurred. Although we have thankfully so far avoided serious flooding in York, it is reassuring that these tools have been put in place, and can be used to help our city should the need arise. It is essential that City of York Council is not left out of pocket as a result of the significant ongoing flood defence effort it has had to undertake.
Since Tuesday evening, Ouse water levels have dropped to 3.42 metres after peaking at 4.42, but are predicted to peak again at 3.7 m on Friday. The city therefore remains in a state of high readiness for flooding, although hopefully the overall trend of falling river levels will continue.
I am glad the government is proceeding with implementing its manifesto commitment to increase flood defence spending from £2.6 billion to £4 billion over the next 5 years, and welcome the ongoing flood defence investment in our city following the terrible 2015 floods, but appreciate more vulnerable communities across Yorkshire will want to see more rapid progress. From official figures, I understand that some one-third of current flood defence funding is spent in the Southeast and London, and I expect the Yorkshire flooding conference to provide an opportunity to establish whether the regional balance of spending on defences needs to be made fairer.”