Jeremy Corbyn and Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, letter to Cameron about “complete failure” of the Government’s approach to flood defence

Dear Prime Minister,

The devastating floods over the last few weeks have exposed the complete failure of the Government’s approach to flood defence.

We were therefore surprised to hear you claim at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon that you “are spending more on flood defence schemes”. This is simply a misrepresentation of what has happened since you took office five and a half years ago.

The number of flood defence projects in line for funding in 2011-12 alone fell from 630 to 356[1]. The Environment Agency has also had to cut its staff by 20%. They now have 800 fewer flood risk management staff than in 2010.

One of the major projects to lose out was the proposed flood defence scheme in Leeds along a 12-mile stretch of the River Aire. Your Government branded the scheme “hugely expensive” at the time and refused to fund it. 1,000 homes in Leeds were hit by devastating floods over Christmas, and your Government has still refused to re-instate the cancelled project, opting instead for a cheaper version which will not cover the entire area at risk and will not be complete until 2017. Surely this is a case of too little, too late from a Government that claimed money was “no object” when it came to flooding? We hope that you will re-consider investment in flood defences on the Aire and will also inquire into the issue of the Foss barrier which Jeremy raised at Prime Minister’s Questions today.

Your Government has ignored warnings from the Committee on Climate Change that it needed to develop a strategy to address the increasing flood risk, and warnings from the Association of Drainage Authorities that your cuts have put homes and businesses in danger. We hope that you will now accept the advice offered by experts like the Committee on Climate Change[2] and will swap your insufficient, internal review into flood defence for an independent, urgent and completely transparent review.

The National Audit Office has estimated that for every £1 spent on flood defence, at least £8 is saved elsewhere[3]. As we face billions of pounds worth of flood damage, we can now tangibly see the effects of the false economy that is your government’s austerity. It is simply disingenuous of you to claim that spending cuts implemented by your government have not had an impact on our flood defences and we look forward to your correcting the record in Parliament.

You avoided important questions at PMQs today, which really matter to the British people. They are still waiting for answers.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Corbyn and Kerry McCarthy