Saturday 9 November 2019 / 11:10 AM Flooding / Jeremy Corbyn

Tory cuts have pushed our emergency services to breaking point – Jeremy Corbyn to visit flood-affected South Yorkshire

Ahead of a visit to flood-affected South Yorkshire today, Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has spoken out against Tory cuts to the fire service and flood defences.

Yesterday the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) warned that firefighters are “overstretched and under-resourced” and analysis by the Labour Party shows that flood response services have also faced crippling cuts under the Tories, with frontline agency staffing numbers slashed by more than a fifth.

One in six properties in the UK are currently at risk of flooding, with studies suggesting that this figure could double in the coming decades as a result of the climate crisis, as rainfall is set to increase.

Despite this clear threat, the Tories have run down flood defences, with the official government climate watchdog slamming them for managing flood defences “like a Dad’s Army”, leaving people at risk. Compared with 2015, national spending on flood defences is down by ten per cent.

The government’s planned spending on flood defences until 2021 also heavily favours London and the south-east of England.

Since the Tories came to power, fire and rescue services across the country have been cut by over £300 million in real terms, shedding 23 percent of their frontline staff.

In South and West Yorkshire, where severe flooding has left homes underwater in the last 48 hours, firefighters have been cut by 25 and 36 per cent respectively.

And the Environment Agency, which is a tier one responder responsible for preparing emergency flooding plans and responding when flooding occurs, has lost 20 percent of its staff.

The agency’s ability to respond to flooding incidents has been compromised by insufficient funding, with most incident response roles now filled on a voluntary basis by staff working overtime.

Another crucial role performed by the Environment Agency is river management, which is estimated to prevent over £1bn each year in flood damage.


Speaking ahead of a visit today to the Don Valley, South Yorkshire, Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said:

“This is what a climate and environment emergency looks like.

“Every year we don’t act means higher flood waters, more homes ruined and more lives at risk.

“Flooding isn’t a natural disaster – it’s human-made. Not only are the government’s plans to tackle the climate emergency weak, they’ve failed to prepare communities by investing in flood prevention and Tory cuts have stretched emergency services to breaking point.

“At this election the choice is clear. This is our last chance to take action to protect future generations, or allow the Tories to accelerate our planet’s destruction.”



Notes to editors

Flood defence plans heavily favour London and south-east

According to a Guardian analysis of votes in Parliament between 2008 and 2018, Boris Johnson voted against stronger climate action on every single occasion.

Environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth have said that Tory climate targets are too late to “save the planet from climate and ecological collapse”.

The Tories have left us on course to miss targets set by the Climate Change Act by an ever-widening margin.

Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee slammed the Tory government for “coasting on climate change”, saying that it “is currently relying on past successes to scrape by on its carbon budgets and isn’t even on track to meet them in full.”

At the rate of progress under the Tories, we won’t reduce carbon emissions to net zero until 2099. (Source: analysis by Labour based on publicly available BEIS data)

One in six properties in the UK is currently at risk of flooding.

Extreme weather events, such as higher maximum daily temperatures and intense rainfall events leading to flash flooding, are projected to be serious consequences of climate change affecting the UK in coming decades.

The IPCC shows the UK receiving about 10 per cent more rainfall on average per year by 2100 compared to 1986-2005.

The Committee on Climate Change has said that global heating is “expected to increase the frequency, severity and extent of flooding”, with the number of homes at risk in the UK potentially doubling.

The Committee on Climate Change said the UK’s climate crisis preparations were being run like Dad’s Army and left the population at real risk, adding that funding for programmes to tackle problems resulting from global heating had been cut.

Fire and rescue services across the country have been cut by over £300 million in real terms and lost 23 per cent of their frontline staff since 2010. (Source: Labour analysis of publicly available data)

The Environment Agency has lost 20 per cent of its workforce since 2013, and staff have seen pay cuts of 20 per cent in real terms.

Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd has argued that more than £1 billion a year is needed to adequately protect the UK, nearly £200 million more than is currently spent.

Howard Boyd and John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, penned a joint op-ed last month warning of the “growing risk of extreme sea-level events” and calling for the government to adopt a nationwide flood resilience standard.

The number of homes at risk from flooding is set to double in the coming decades as a consequence of global heating.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee released a report in 2016 which described the national framework for flood management as “fragmented, inefficient and ineffective in meeting the level of threat that flood risk poses to communities across England” and called for “a root and branch review of national and local flood risk management.”

The government refused to act, acknowledging that “many different public and private bodies are involved in flood and coastal erosion risk management” but saying “We do not agree that there is a need for substantial change to the existing national and local governance provisions for flood risk management.”

The 25 Year Environment Plan published in 2018 had very little to say on flooding and it is unclear what progress has been made on any of its aims.

The National Infrastructure Commission have been undertaking a Resilience review, but this is not due to report until 2020.