THE flood-hit South West of England needs a joined up, five year reconstruction and development plan to rebuild the economic, transport and social fabric, Unite, said yesterday.
Unite regional secretary for the south-west, Laurence Faircloth, said the resurrection of the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), abolished by the coalition in 2012, needs to be considered as a vehicle to co-ordinate such a development plan.
Faircloth said: ‘What the terrible floods and the damage they have wreaked have shown is that the South West is the poor relation when politicians and civil servants formulate policy in London.
‘We do need to change the image that the West Country is just a picture postcard holiday destination.
‘It is also the home to five million people who need good transport infrastructure, homes that they can afford, defences against flooding and an economy that can sustain high levels of employment.
‘The floods should be a wake-up call to government as they have highlighted these long-standing issues affecting the people of the South West.
‘David Cameron has promised that “money will be no object”, however Unite would like to know if this will be “new” money or raiding the underspent budgets of other government departments.
‘Climate experts said that the effects of the flooding could last until May and the government needs to act quickly to help those in agriculture and business who have lost their jobs.
‘Those struggling, with perhaps no home or income coming in, need assistance now to put food on the table for their families.
‘The government needs to be talking constantly to business and tourism representatives, as well as civic groups to refine what the South West needs on a daily basis.
‘There is also the question of what financial assistance may be forthcoming from the EU – this possible pot of money needs to be investigated as a matter of urgency by ministers.
‘The South West needs a five year reconstruction and development plan and we believe that the re-formation of the SWRDA, foolishly abolished in 2012, would be an excellent vehicle to spearhead such a programme.’