Opposition criticises RCT council for ‘broken promises’ and delays to report on Storm Dennis floods
The opposition have criticised Rhondda Cynon Taf council for broken promises and delays to reports into the flood caused by Storm Dennis last year.
Plaid Cymru, which is calling for an independent inquiry into the floods which devastated communities in RCT in 2020, have said it is “astonishing and disappointing” that the Labour-run council is stalling the publication of the statutory Section 19 reports which are set to include the findings of its investigation into the flooding.
Councillor Shelley Rees-Owen, Plaid councillor for Pentre, asked the leader Councillor Andrew Morgan at the recent full council meeting on Wednesday, March 10 when the reports would be published.
Cllr Morgan said it’ll be a couple more months but along with the £50,000 revenue flooding they’re putting in towards flood prevention in the budget they are investing £500,000 in additional drainage crews.
Leanne Wood, Plaid’s MS for Rhondda, said: “If these reports are finally delivered after the Senedd elections in May – as the council leader said this week – then it will come out at least 15 months after the horrendous events that forced hundreds of people out of their homes across Rhondda Cynon Taf.
“It seem Labour is trying to kick the matter into the long grass. Victims of flooding want answers and will feel aggrieved that, despite numerous promises from Labour that the Section 19 reports would be delivered by now, these promises have not been met.
“First we were told by the Labour council in a press release that the inquiry findings would be delivered in ‘October/November’
“Then, a few months later, during a Senedd debate on the merits of an independent inquiry on December 9, the Labour MS for Pontypridd said that the reports ‘were expected sometime in early January.’
“Cabinet papers published later that month on December 18 said the section 19 reports ‘will be available in early 2021.’
“Time and time again, the Labour administration in RCT has broken promises to deliver these compulsory section 19 reports. People will be rightly asking ‘what are they trying to hide?’ and ‘why are they delaying this?’
“This is why Plaid Cymru is pushing for an independent flood inquiry. We need independent and impartial experts looking into the causes of the flooding so we can craft the most robust policies and measures to protect our people and our communities.”
But in response, Cllr Morgan said: “The council has made clear that this statutory reporting requirement under Section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 is an extensive process, which will record and assess all contributory factors related to the series of severe flooding events which took place in February 2020.
“To facilitate the Section 19 reports, 28 Flood Investigation Areas have been established through the Borough which has included over 50km of underground watercourses surveyed, cleaned and repaired as the investigation work proceeded; over 2,514 individual property investigations and an extensive public engagement process with over 300 responses.
“This also includes extensive dialogues with other risk management authorities such as Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales. This data is being analysed by specialist consultants to advise the Section 19 statutory process. “
“However, our priority and strategy has been not to wait for the Section 19 reports but to immediately start implementing measures to reduce flood risk, therefore, works have not waited for the Section 19 reports, with over 2,000t of debris removed, 28 emergency repairs, 30+ projects completed, over 220 properties receiving interim flood resistance measures, and over 15 major projects in development with an investment of over £7m to date”
“The section 19 reports are carried out independently from councillors by the council’s professional officers, who hold the statutory responsibilities for this matter. It is wrong to turn a statutory process, undertaken by officers of the council, into a political matter – these same officers are already dealing with unprecedented calls upon their time due to the circumstances created by the pandemic and the priority works as described above.
“In addition to direct enquiries with individual residents, the process includes extensive dialogue with Natural Resources Wales and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water. When complete, the Section 19 reports will be submitted to Welsh Government, which will be available to the public and scrutiny by Members of the council.
“This extensive and robust process, completed by professional officers, negates the need for public inquiry at substantial cost to the public purse.”