Prime Minister David Cameron visits Yalding Kent flood site, but greater action is needed

Editor’s Blog Posted 06/01/14
Firms across the South East could be facing a total bill of £100 million as a result of flood damage and lost trade

According to some reports, the extensive flooding experienced across the South East over the past two weeks could cost a total of £100million to businesses within the region.

Understandably, there has been alarm at the damage caused as torrential rains and storms resulted in rivers bursting their banks across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

It seemed it was far from just coastal areas that were hit by the extreme weather, with a number of firms within the Maidstone area in particular seriously affected by floods, forcing their temporary closure.

Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to take a leaf out of president Barack Obama’s book (of being quickly on the scene most affected) in making a swift visit to Kent on boxing day, to examine the extent of problems faced by businesses and residents in the flood-prone village.

But his well-intentioned move perhaps backfired as he found himself on the end of stinging criticism over alleged lack of response to the troubling weather conditions.

His reaction? Issuing a memo to the department for local communities to ensure councils have an adequate policy in place for handling emergency weather conditions.

While this sounds fine in principle, it begs the question why the government hadn’t already considered that this was a priority far sooner?

The Environment Agency, to its credit, did in fact issue timely weather warnings, which most businesses under threat heeded as best they could – through fairly primitive means of deploying sandbags and anything else they could lay their hands on to tackle the rising waters.

It could not have come at a worse time to discover that the agency in fact reportedly intends to make cutbacks of around 1,500 staff across the country- though was unable to state how many of that figure are frontline flood response employees.

Clearly, with the major budget cuts that have impacted (and will continue to impact) on councils across the South East, there appears very little public money available as a contingency to deal with such situations.

This is a situation that is unlikely to improve any time soon as George Osborne announced that a further £25billion is needed to be cut off the national deficit.

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