Socialist Worker

Anger at the Tories after climate chaos sparks floods

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2692

Porthcawl in Wales on Sunday as Storm Dennis hit

Porthcawl in Wales on Sunday as Storm Dennis hit (Pic: Ben Salter/Flickr)


The damage caused by the floods across Britain has exposed the total failure to provide for people in danger.

Climate change makes storms and floods more likely—yet the Tories are abandoning whole towns.

A record number of amber and red flood warnings were issued across Britain as a result of Storm Dennis. This came just days after Storm Ciara hit.

Three people are thought to have died as result of conditions related to flooding and rough seas.

Thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes.

South Wales felt the full force of the storms and the town of Pontypridd was one of the worst affected.

After the River Taff burst its banks, up to a thousand homes were damaged, roads were blocked and people were trapped in their homes.

Around 600 people were evacuated. Ian Thomas from Blackwood, near Pontypridd, said flooding there “seemed a lot worse than usual” and an “extreme” amount of rain fell.

Pontypridd resident Marianne Owens told Socialist Worker that the flood defences haven’t been updated since they were installed in the 1970s.

“The community has rallied to help those affected,” she said.

Sandbags

“But there doesn’t seem to be any serious organisation and not many resources, such as sandbags, provided to help protect against flood water.”

Working class towns such as Pontypridd have seen little investment in all areas including flood prevention. Time and time again some of Britain’s poorest areas are being hit with devastating flooding.

And they are often left to deal with the aftermath with little help from the state. George Eustice, the new Tory environment secretary, said, “The nature of climate change means extreme weather events such as this weekend’s deluge are becoming more common.

“We have to live with that fact”.

But the government is failing to take effective action over climate change. And for those whose homes have been damaged by the floods this comment must have felt like a slap in the face.

Only a few months ago floods hit South Yorkshire, resulting in hundreds of people having to evacuate their homes.

Some are yet to return. The infrastructure to deal with these events desperately needs to be put in place as quickly as possible or suffering for ordinary people will get worse.


Tories’ budget cuts have made extreme weather events more destructive

Years of cuts and a lack of effective planning means floods are more destructive.

Funding for flood defences in England was cut in 2010 after David Cameron became prime minister.

In 2009, the Environment Agency (EA) said it would need at least £1,000 million a year, plus inflation, to ensure proper protection for communities.

And the acceleration of climate change means that now the figure will be higher.

But instead of listening, the Tories cut the Flood Defence Grant Aid budget from £670 million in 2010-11 to £576 million in 2012-13.

After the storms of 2013-14, which saw extensive flooding in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, the government increased the funding and the budget for 2019-20 is £815 million.

This is still well short of what the EA said was needed. And staff numbers have been slashed. The EA employed 13,027 staff in 2013. Today the figure is 10,713.

All this means that some places are repeatedly hit by floods, the damage is worse—and they may even have to be abandoned.

Last year, EA chair Emma Howard Boyd laid out a three-pronged strategy to create “climate-resilient places”.

But she warned, “In some places, the scale of the threat may be so significant that recovery will not always be the best long-term solution.

“In these instances, we will help communities to move out of harm’s way.”

Tory inaction could see villages and towns wiped from the map as the climate crisis rages.


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