Politics

Labour promises COBRA-style taskforce as weather warnings issued for Scotland

The Labour Party has promised to set up a COBRA-style taskforce that would meet every winter to assess the flood risk to communities as parts of the UK continue to be battered by heavy rain after Storm Babet.

The party said it would create a flood resilience taskforce that would co-ordinate preparation between the government, local councils and emergency services.

It comes as heavy and persistent rain has been causing disruption along the south coast of England which is expected to continue into the weekend.

The northeast of Scotland is once again bracing for an onslaught of rain after a weather warning was extended as the region recovers from Storm Babet.

A yellow weather alert, which began at noon on Thursday, will remain in place until midday on Sunday.

The warning was initially scheduled to be lifted at 12pm on Saturday but has been extended to Sunday to “account for a likely slower clearance”.

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Labour accused the government of “complacency” when it came to flooding and said its new taskforce would ensure vulnerable areas are identified in advance, as well as providing accountability for progress on flood prevention.

The party said it would also appoint a “minister for resilience” at the Cabinet Office to better respond to emergencies.

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‘Sewage scandal’ in water system

Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed said: “My heart goes out to all families and businesses whose lives and livelihoods have been damaged by these floods.

“The Conservatives’ sticking-plaster approach has left communities devastated and cost the economy billions of pounds.

“In government, Labour will set up a flood resilience taskforce that meets before every winter to make sure there is better co-ordination between national and local government and emergency services on the ground, so we give communities and local economies far better protection against flood damage.”

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Therese Coffey confronted

Earlier this week Sky News witnessed residents in Retford, Nottinghamshire, confront the Environment Secretary Therese Coffey about the damage done to their homes by Storm Babet.

Lucy Rose, who was forced to leave her home in the middle of Sunday night, was involved in a heated discussion with the minister, in which she described her struggles in asking for help after she was evacuated from her home.

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Ms Coffey raised eyebrows this week when she suggested the damage done by Storm Babet was harder to predict because rain came in from the east.

In response to Labour’s taskforce, the Conservatives said Labour had “copy and pasted” the action the government was already taking, in a possible reference to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves who is facing accusations of apparent plagiarism in her new book.

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“The government already has a series of committees and taskforces – including COBRA itself – to monitor and tackle flooding including: the Flood Forecasting Centre, the National Flood Advisory Service, the National Situation Centre, the National Flood Response Centre and local resilience forums,” a Conservative spokesman said.

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‘You deal with it!’

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Flooding can be devastating to communities – which is why we are investing a record £5.2bn between 2021 and 2027 to better protect hundreds of thousands of properties.

“Ahead of Storm Babet, we stood up the National Flood Response Centre which coordinated cross-agency and government operations to tackle the floods.

“These preparations, along with the efforts of Environment Agency staff and other partners on the ground, helped to protect over 96,000 properties from flooding.”

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