As floods subside, anger rises at lack of UK Government assistance in cleanup effort
Anger is mounting at the lack of assistance from the UK Government as large swathes of Wales continue to clear up the flood damage caused by Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara.
Natalie Pascoe, who is coordinating volunteers and donors in Rhondda Cynon Taf, where over 1,000 properties have been affected, said there was a perception that Wales was being treated differently to parts of England flooded before the election.
She pointed to the fact that the army had been deployed in Yorkshire to help with the clean-up after flooding there. An emergency Cobra meeting was also held to coordinate action over the floods that hit Yorkshire and the east Midlands in November.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hasn’t visited any of the areas affected by flooding or made any comment from where he is staying at Chevening, a government-owned historic property near Sevenoaks.
“The Westminster Government has done nothing,” Natalie Pascoe said. “Jeremy Corbyn showed his face in Pontypridd yesterday, I understand he is not in the government, and Prince Charles is going today but that’s nothing. They haven’t done anything.
“Boris Johnson, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t even mentioned it. There have been no armed forces out helping people. It’s all been left to volunteers – local residents helping each other.
“The community spirit up there is amazing but everything else has been left to volunteers and teams of people who are taking time out of their day, letting their business and their work and their family life be affected to go and help other people.
“For whatever reason that is, and I’m sure some of us have got good ideas about that, it is very apparent that the other incidents in the north of England happened just before an election. The actual government itself is just not there.”
Welsh Office Minister and Monmouthshire MP David Davies last night defended the UK Government. In a interview on Channel 4 News in which he accused interviewer Cathy Newman of asking “outrageous questions”, he said that it wasn’t for the Prime Minister to become involved.
“It is a devolved issue and myself and the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart are very sensitive to the accusations […] that we’re trying to ride roughshod over the devolution settlement,” he said.
“We are not responsible for the health service, or for education, or for flood defences in Wales. And we understand that.”
Interviewer Cathy Newman said: “Well the Welsh government has come to you and asked for funding from the Treasury. How much will they get and when?”
“Well first of all the First Minister of Wales has said he will release £10m in funding. That isn’t going to go very far at all. Now if the First Minister is looking to us to support him in getting more money out of the Westminster Government then, of course, we will be looking to do that.
“But he needs to come to use and tell us first of all how much he’s going to need and what it is going to be spent on because we have had a problem in the past where money has been passed on from the UK Government to the Welsh Government and it hasn’t been spent on what we expected it to be spent on.”
A Met Office yellow weather warning has warned of further heavy rain today and tomorrow.
Pentre in Rhondda Cynon Taff has been particularly hard hit having flooded for the second time in five days after a culvert collapsed.
Many residents across the south-east of Wales have seen their homes and cars destroyed and while some have been temporarily rehoused many are still living in homes that are inundated with mud and water.
Some residents had been put up in hotels in Cardiff but councils are having to find alternative accommodation with many rooms booked out by fans attending today’s rugby international between Wales and France.
Many don’t want to leave pets behind to go into temporary accommodation and are living in homes damaged by flooding. Those that left are facing six to 12 months away from home as they are cleaned up and dried out.
“There was mud everywhere,” Natalie Pascoe said. “People had pulled their furniture, mostly from downstairs into the street. It was damp and muddy and that was what it was like in people’s homes.
“There were sandbags banked up everywhere. A lot of residents weren’t home but some were. I understand the local chip shop had been feeding them as well as the Salvation Army in Pentre, who’d been going out with sandwiches and things like that.”
“These people are so grateful for your help. It’s really touching and that’s when you realise you are doing good. We have had residents crying. It’s a situation you can’t believe is happening on your own doorstep.”
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant said the damage in Pentre could cost up to £5m and has called on Natural Resources Wales to set up a multi-million-pound compensation fund.
In the meantime, donations of food, cleaning products, furniture and cash are needed as the largely volunteer-run groups, helping victims of the floods, come under severe pressure.
Trallwn community centre has been a hub for coordinating flood relief activities and has been supplying sandwiches to over 500 affected homes but they are running out of food and money today and need to help buy more bread, fillings, sandwich bags, clingfilm and cash to pay for the transport of supplies to the surrounding areas.
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant has also set up an appeal for help to raise funds to help people who have been affected and has raised over £22,000 so far. Contributions can be made here.
Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has raised close to £7,000 from her appeal set up this week and contributions can be made here.
Independence campaign group Yes Cymru have also raised over £5,000. Contributions can be made here.