Wednesday 16 December 2020 / 10:30 PM Flooding / Keir Starmer

Starmer calls for flood preparedness taskforce, warning PM risks “letting down flood-hit communities yet again”

Keir Starmer today calls on Boris Johnson to urgently convene a taskforce on flood preparedness during the pandemic, as new research by the Labour Party reveals the Prime Minister’s year of broken promises to flood-hit communities.

The Labour leader is calling for the Prime Minister to include regional leaders and frontline services on the taskforce, to ensure communities across England are protected from the combined dangers of flooding and Covid this winter. The Environment Agency warned people this week to prepare for possible floods as Met Office forecasts showed the next two months may be wetter than usual.

Accusing the Prime Minister of breaking the promises made to communities devastated by floods in November 2019 and February 2020, Starmer says: “it’s simply not good enough to wait until after disaster strikes to turn up and pledge support.”

After visiting flood-hit communities in South Yorkshire during the General Election last year, Johnson said: “We will come back and ensure that what I’m undertaking to do now is delivered… to make sure that people are properly protected.”


The Prime Minister has not returned to those communities since, and new research published by Labour today reveals ‘12 months of broken promises’ to flood-hit communities, including:

  •    Continued cuts to emergency flood response, with fire and rescue services losing more than 11,000 workers – 22% of total staff – since 2010, despite new figures showing a 17% increase in flooding events attended by rescue services in the last year alone.
  •   Failure to fully distribute the £5,000 grants promised by the Prime Minister to people whose homes and businesses were affected by floods – with no transparency over the number distributed – meaning some may not receive funds until more than 2 years after the floods.
  •                An 11-month delay to the Yorkshire Flood Summit – requiring a total of 21 letters and parliamentary interventions from local leaders – downgraded to a South Yorkshire-only summit, to which the Prime Minister refused an invitation to attend.


Starmer will meet today with residents and businesses in South Yorkshire communities which are still not fully recovered from the floods 12 months ago. With the risk of further flooding this winter, the Labour leader urged the Government to act now to ensure communities are protected and that families who may be forced to evacuate – particularly elderly and vulnerable people – are kept safe from the virus.

Government figures show over five million homes in England are at risk from flooding and coastal erosion. The floods in November 2019 and February 2020 saw thousands of people forced to leave their homes, with 1,900 people evacuated in Doncaster alone last year.  Boris Johnson refused to call the flooding a national emergency, waiting until five days after the floods began to convene COBRA.


Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“The Prime Minister visited Yorkshire after last year’s floods and made big promises to people affected. But it’s simply not good enough to wait until after disaster strikes to turn up and pledge support.

“The Government should be convening a flood preparedness taskforce now, involving local leaders and frontline agencies, in case the worst happens over Christmas or New Year.

“The need for pre-emptive action is especially urgent this year. The pandemic has pushed councils and frontline services to their limits, and people will be extremely anxious at the thought of having to evacuate while the threat of the virus is still very real.

“The reality is that we’ve had twelve months of delays and broken promises from the Government. Unless we see swift action, the Prime Minister risks letting down flood-hit communities yet again.”