Environment

Storm Eunice: Vulnerable flood victims need more protection, government told

Working-class communities are “bearing the brunt” of more frequent flooding, MP Karl Turner MP warned, as Storm Eunice sparked flood warnings across the UK.

A flooded Cornwall high street.

Deprived areas are often more exposed to flood risk then more affluent areas. Image: Pixabay

The government has been told to “honour promises” to protect at-risk communities from flooding as Storm Eunice batters large parts of the UK. 

Millions of people have been told to stay at home on Friday and the Met Office has issued two red warnings for wind – one to cover south Wales and south-west England and the other covering London, the south-east and parts of the east of England. A red warning is the highest alert level and indicates a “significant danger to life”.

But MPs and experts have warned that the government needs to do more to protect the most vulnerable victims of flooding, with low-income households least resilient to flood events

“Flooding is a human-made disaster, and too often it is working-class communities that bear the brunt. The Tories have slashed spending on flood defences but are all too ready to turn up for a photo opportunity, after disaster strikes,” Karl Turner, MP for Hull East said. 

“The government needs to honour their promises to [protect] at-risk communities,” he added. 

This week the Big Issue revealed that many homes in Bentley, Doncaster are still unprotected from flooding more than two years on from devastating floods in 2019. 

Heather Shepherd of charity the National Flood Forum said the government’s response to flood events continues to be “reactive, rather than proactive”, with little done between flooding to better protect communities.

Those in lower-income areas are worst affected due to a lack of financial resilience and support for recovering from flooding, she added.

“There is always a personal financial predicament that you’re put in if you’re flooded – but that hits much harder if you’re living on benefits or a low income”, Shepherd said.

Deprived communities are already more exposed to flood risk, with research showing that a disproportionate number of homes built in struggling or declining areas between 2008 and 2018 will be exposed to flooding due to climate change in the coming years. 

“There should be no building on flood plains”, says Shepherd.

“At the moment it’s a free-for-all, many developers are only interested in profit rather than people – once they’ve sold off the homes it doesn’t matter to them.” 

The government has spent billions on flood defence programmes and schemes over the past few years, but experts say many are still unaffordable to society’s poorest.

The Flood Re scheme offers a way for people in high-risk flood areas to obtain cheaper insurance cover, but the prices still remain out of reach for many, said Shepherd.

“Some of these people are struggling to put food on the table and the government’s idea of cheap insurance is a few hundred rather than a few thousand pounds – it’s unrealistic.”

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After flooding hit Bentley in 2019 it was discovered that almost 40 per cent of residents had no insurance, with cost a contributing factor. 

The proportion of flood funding going to deprived areas has also reduced since 2014, according to the Public Accounts Committee, limiting local authority capacity for assisting residents following flooding. 

A Defra spokesperson said: “We’re investing a record £5.2 billion in new flood and coastal defences across England, with the most deprived areas qualifying for this investment at more than twice the rate of less deprived areas and more than £110 million is already being invested in South Yorkshire.”

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