David Cameron surveyed flood defences which failed so miserably at Christmas and promised desperate victims in Lancashire: “We are here for the long haul.”
The Prime Minister saw for himself the work going on to repair the damage caused by Storm Eva and pledged to do all he could to avoid it happening again.
“We have spent £19m on Lancashire flood defences in the last five years,” he said on a flying visit to Croston, one of the villages worst-hit by the Boxing Day deluge.
“The plan is to spend £114m in the next six years.
“A lot of that is on coastal defences. But these are all important schemes and we have to make sure we push ahead with them.”
The PM’s visit came more than a month after Eva wreaked havoc across the North West.
Mr Cameron pledged help from the Government to speed things up.
“We recognise people have suffered a lot. It is horrible being flooded, particularly at Christmastime and having to throw all the wet and mouldy furniture and carpets out and wait for re-plasterers to arrive and the insurance companies to pay out.
“It is a miserable thing and we will do everything we can to help.
“I was very keen to come here because obviously there were a lot of visits during the crisis period by ministers, but I wanted to come now and see the ongoing operations to try and build the resilience and put in place better flood protection and hear how that is going.
“There are always lessons to learn, but my sense is this time the Environment Agency were very quick off the mark.
“The Government’s schemes to pay out money to households and businesses worked more rapidly. But there is a lot more to do.”
“On the roads we have a £40m scheme for Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. We are helping with the Flood RE insurance product that comes forward from April so that people who have been flooded and who can’t get insurance, can get insurance.
“We are helping with schemes for businesses and households that are paying out faster.
“We have got to think all the time what can we do to improve our resilience and improve our flood defences.
“I am committed to doing that and the money is there to spend on that.
“I think people find it frustrating when people say ‘look, it’s a once in 200 years event.’ It does seem to be happening more often.
“I will leave it to the experts what is climate change and all the rest of it. I can just say that these events are happening more frequently.
“The public rightly expect us to take more action.
“Part of that are engineering solutions like dredging, like higher flood barriers and more protection and we need to put these things in place.
“We also need to do more to protect critical infrastructure. Again I think that has been better than on previous occasions.”
MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale David Morris said: “I welcome David Cameron’s visit to the worst affected area by Storm Eva and welcome his comments about the importance of Government help in the clean up operation.
“I am pleased that the Prime Minister has confirmed £40 million for road replaces across the region, part of which I have already secured to repaid Loyn Bridge in Gressingham.
“It is also great to see the Prime Minister reiterate a pledge Flood Ministers had made when I met with them for an extra £9 million for defences along the Lune from the new link road along the river to ensure that flooding on this scale can not happen again.”
Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith said: “The emergency services and military have done a sterling job in their response to the floods ensuring swift and safe rescues for those affected.
“However, the Government has failed to adequately prepare our country for the effects of climate change and the impacts that flooding has on our communities.
“The Coalition Government ignored warnings that spending on flood defences would have to increase by £10-30 million each year to maintain existing flood protection by 2030.
“Instead, the Environment Agency lost 20% of its staff and even after the emergency funding, maintenance spending fell.
“It is not enough for the Government to say the budget is “protected” after they have neglected it for so many years.
“It is time for the UK to have a complete rethink about our flood defence system including better management of river catchments, from land use in our upstream areas, to estuaries and lowland areas.
“If the Government doesn’t act now, it will only be a matter of time before vulnerable communities face further turmoil.”