UK flood victims criticise government for 'belated response'

Nazia Parveen North of England correspondent
Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

People affected by flooding in Midlands and north of England have accused the government of a “belated response” after Boris Johnson announced a series of measures designed to prevent a repeat of this month’s disaster.

The prime minister announced that £5,000 grants would be made available through local authorities from the end of November, in the wake of severe flooding in parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands.

The money will be available to homes and businesses that have been seriously affected in the floods this autumn.

Related: The flooding in Fishlake – a photo essay

They are designed to go towards the additional costs of installing fittings and materials that help protect properties from flood water damage in the future, such as putting in flood doors and raising the electrics off ground level.

The environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, who visited the region this week said: “My thoughts go out to all those affected by the devastating flooding which has taken place over the last two weeks.

“As we look ahead to the coming months, it is crucial that people are able to prepare for future flooding. That is why we are providing increased funding to enable people to make their homes more resilient and better protected if floods happen again.”

The support for homes and businesses comes on top of grants worth up to £25,000, which will be made available to flood-hit farmers in northern England, officials said.

The measure is the latest announcement by the government to support flood victims amid widespread criticism for a slow response to the flooding, which claimed one life last week.

Claire Holling, who owns the Old Butchers cafe and offered refuge to many evacuated residents in Fishlake, near Doncaster, told the Yorkshire post that while the extra money to help protect properties against future flooding would be welcomed it had been too late.

“It’s like confetti with the money now, why were they not doing that before?” she added.

Meanwhile, the Sheffield city region mayor, Dan Jarvis, called for an emergency summit to be held in the next two weeks, including a review by the Environment Agency of the flood defences required on the River Don in Yorkshire.

“The environment secretary’s belated response to flooding in South Yorkshire serves as another reminder of the government’s delayed reaction to the devastation our communities have suffered.

“For my part, I’m determined to make sure – as the media’s focus slowly shifts elsewhere – that our region has the investment, infrastructure and resilience we need to deal with future flooding incidents,” he added.

Last week leaders of councils across northern England called for “massive” increases in funding to deal with major incidents.

The leaders of councils in Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield, Barnsley, Bassetlaw and Kirklees warned of “considerable and lasting damage on a wide scale”, including to power plants and transport infrastructure, and called for funding increases to help them cope with future floods.

In the absence of detailed official figures, the Guardian contacted local authorities in all flood-affected areas and found that at least 1,758 properties had been flooded across Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

The figure is more than double the official Environment Agency estimate of 830 properties flooded.