Community leaders in an area devastated by Storm Ciara say they urgently need more cash and are calling on Boris Johnson to: “Come and see for yourself.”
Calder Valley in West Yorkshire was slammed by winds and floods which damaged more than 500 properties and left a repair bill topping £1million.
Britain is bracing for its fourth storm of the year with the Met Office warning that Storm Dennis will bring more flooding when it arrives from noon on Saturday.
A dog walker became the third victim of Ciara when he was killed by a falling tree in Liverpool while the Environment Agency said 730 properties had been damaged nationwide.
Homes in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cumbria bore the brunt of the “storm of the century” and it was Calder Valley’s third major flood in seven years. Residents there criticised the agency for taking too long to finish work on flood defences.
Work in Mytholmroyd began after the 2015 flood but is still not finished. Many people cannot get insurance and are still paying off previous flood damage.
Council leader Tim Swift blamed a lack of government funds. He told The Mirror: “It’s a huge problem. Boris Johnson needs to come and sit down and talk to people to understand the scale. He needs to address the failings of the last 10 years.”
Locals surveyed the damage today.
Hannah Flood, 38, “lost everything” in her rented home when the River Calder burst in Mytholmroyd.
She said: “Ours was the biggest pile of belongings on the pavement. When water started coming in we didn’t have time to move everything.
“My partner has broken his leg so I tried to move what I could. I was panicking and we were stuck upstairs. It started coming up the steps and we could hear this bubbling sound. The water was filthy and it stank.” Neighbour Suzanne Stankard said: “It feels like I’ve lost a family member. It’s frightening.
“You don’t know when it’s going to stop rising. You’re looking and thinking, ‘please, not the next step’. You hear things crashing around downstairs.”
But she vowed not to move out, adding: “It’s wonderful here, we’re all friends.”
Stephanie Smith, 28, who fled to live with her boyfriend and three kids, said: “I’m numb. This is the second time it’s happened.”
She was promised last August that her garden wall, which overlooks the river, would be boosted with a glass panel to protect it. “We’re still waiting,” she said.
Her mum Karen, 57, who lives next door, said: “I’m not moving, I love it here.”
Joanne Smith who runs The Little Box Kitchen delivered free hot food to victims.
Tearful Rita Gill, 77, hugged her and said: “You don’t know how much this means.” Rita also said a “total stranger” volunteered to clean her home.
Joanne said: “I got flooded four years ago. This time I didn’t so this is payback.”
Local councillor Roisin Cavanagh said: “The town was starting to thrive. Now we have the huge feat of having to recover again. People face a lot of anxiety. Every time it rains their hearts beat a lot faster.”
The Environment Agency said Calder Valley had a month’s rain in a day, adding: “Since 2015 the Government has committed to invest £74million to protect the area from floods. Construction work in Mytholmroyd is expected to be completed by the summer.”
Another local councillor, Scott Patient, urged the PM: “Give us some real sustainable revenue like the billions spent on HS2. Get your butt up here and stop putt-ing money into vanity capital projects.”
Environmental Agency bosses' huge £1.5million bonuses
Environment Agency bosses have pocketed £1.5million in bonuses in the past five years – despite continually failing to stop flooding.
That is over three times what Boris Johnson offered flood victims forced from their homes in the North last year.
Figures revealed in November also showed 27 agency executives shared nearly £250,000 of “performance-related” payouts during 2019.
Unions say job cuts and pay caps have shattered agency staff morale and the workforce has shrunk from 13,000 to 10,000 since 2013. The GMB union said many staff earn less than £25,000 a year and some jobs start at only just above the £8.21-an-hour National Living Wage.
Yet agency chief executive Sir James Bevan is paid £215,000 a year and chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd, who is on a three-day week, picks up £100,000.
The Government has allowed workers only a 1% rise and a further 1% scraped from savings such as job losses.
Tonight the agency did not make any senior management available to talk to the Daily Mirror, saying it was not “operationally possible”.
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