TORY austerity cuts have meant that poorer areas of the country have been left completely at the mercy of floods, to the extent that villages in Yorkshire have been forced to buy their own flood defences to protect their homes.
As storm Dennis raged across the country over the weekend, dumping a month’s worth of rain on several areas, it became clear that, despite all the Tory claims to the contrary, UK flood defences have been cut to the bone with poorer areas ‘sacrificed’ to protect wealthier towns and cities.
None of this comes as a surprise. Only last November South Yorkshire was hit by floods which revealed that flood response services have been crippled by Tory cuts at the same time that firefighters and other frontline emergency response services have seen their numbers slashed by more than a fifth.
According to studies one in six properties in the UK are currently at risk of flooding, a figure that could double in the future if, as predicted, rainfall increases.
This threat to homes, jobs and lives has been well known for years, but despite this the Tories have systematically run down flood defences with government spending down by 10% since 2015.
In the aftermath of storm Ciara, and just days before the floods hit this weekend, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) warned that Tory cuts to the tune of £140 million mean that fire and rescue services are ‘fighting with one hand tied behind their back’ and that lives are in greater risk.
The new Tory environment secretary, George Eustice, attempted to fend off criticism by claiming that the government is pledging an extra £4 billion in funding for flood defences over the next five years.
Eustice said: ‘I know that’s no consolation at all to the 400 that have been affected. But it is the case, when you have these events, you’ll never be able to protect every single property. But the investments we’ve made mean we have been able to protect a significant number.’
In fact, all the Tory spending on flood defences up to next year has favoured London and the south-east of England above all other areas, with the biggest projects located in the Thames Estuary.
Up to 60% of the spending plans to 2021 went to London and the south-east, areas which contain only 32% of England’s population but which far out-weigh the north of England or Wales in terms of wealth.
Under the Tories, flood defence projects are funded according to a ‘cost benefit’ formula – the higher the price of property the better ‘value’ for money.
Spending per person on flood defences was calculated to be £180 in the south-east, and £116 in London, while the north east only got £33 a head and the West Midlands a derisory £14.
The wealthy are to be protected at all costs while the poor can drown as far as the Tories are concerned.
Protecting towns from floods by pushing the danger onto other poorer communities is the inevitable outcome of plans designed primarily to protect the wealthy – as the inhabitants of the North Yorkshire village of Kirkby Wharfe found this weekend.
Residents of the village, who had to pay for their own inflatable dam, revealed that surrounding land had been designated as a reservoir to prevent the wealthier town of Tadcaster from being flooded by the nearby river.
The villagers were being ‘sacrificed’ to save the town.
Flood defences promised to villages across the whole of the north after the floods of 2015 were either never completed or never even started.
This is the stark reality of capitalism – a system based on profits for a tiny minority of the rich who must be protected at all cost, while thousands suffer from these disasters as a result.
The only way to prevent future disasters is to bring down this Tory government and replace it with a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and so acquire the resources needed to plan and develop the technological means to provide flood defences that will provide a safe environment for all.