Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves is calling on Ministers to use their upcoming spending blueprint to earmark cash for Leeds’ planned flood defences before they “live to regret their dither and delay”.
The move came after Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak responded to a letterfrom Ms Reeves urging the Government to deliver the protection the city needs by further investing in Phase Two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme.
In his response, the Treasury Minister refused to commit the funds – despite a Government promise that Leeds would soon have one of the ‘most resilient flood defence programmes in the country’.
Mr Sunak said:
“Later in the autumn, the Government will announce its ambitious plans for future capital spending, including the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy.”
But Ms Reeves said:
“Yet again the Government is coming up with excuses for its failure to deliver the funds needed to properly protect Leeds from the potentially devastating impact of future floods.
“I hope ministers do not live to regret their dither and delay. If we do not get proper flood defences in place it is the businesses and communities in my constituency who will pay the price.
“The Government should ensure all the required funds for flood defences are including in its forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy.
“I will keep up the pressure on the Government and the Environment Agency until we get all the funds in place to build the city’s flood defences.”
Almost four years ago on Boxing Day 2015, devastating floods struck Kirkstall and Burley.
Some businesses needed to relocate, and others were forced to close.
To provide protection from future flooding like those seen in 2015, a flood defence scheme capable of providing a 1-in-200-year level of protection is required.
Leeds City Council has drawn up Phase Two of its Flood Alleviation Scheme to provide this degree of protection, while the Government has committed to spending £65 million on this project with a total of £86.8 million in funding secured. This will secure one in 100-year flood protection.
But the figure falls £25.3 million short of the £112.1 million required to provide the city with the protection it needs.
A Government spokesperson said:
“We are already investing heavily to provide better flood protection for communities and homes in Leeds.
“Since the devastating floods of 2015, we have committed £100m to bolster protections in the city. This includes investing more than £35m for the city centre, and a further £65 million to protect the wider area, including Kirkstall Road.”