The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called for greater flood defence spending after experts criticised the chancellor, George Osborne, for prioritising cutting the deficit.
Speaking in the flood-hit city of York, Corbyn praised emergency workers for helping those who found their homes and businesses inundated over the Christmas and new year period.
“[We are going to put] pressure on the government to fully fund the Environment Agency, not cut its budget, [to] fully fund new flood defences where they are necessary, not just in York but in other cities as well,” he told reporters.
Corbyn praised the emergency services for their coordinated response. “But they do need public support, they do need public investment. So, cutting flood defence money, which has been cut over the past five years, is not the answer, the answer has to be to increase it,” he said.
Overnight, it emerged that the Labour leader would demand to know why the Environment Agency had not deployed 10 high-volume water pumps his party said had remained idle throughout Storm Frank.
Osborne faced criticism on Wednesday from academics who said their analysis showed that flood defence spending had fallen.
Prof Simon Wren-Lewis of Oxford University said the government had shown no signs of taking into account the growing threat of extreme weather.
Official data showed flood defence spending was cut significantly at the start of the last parliament, from £360m in 2010-11 to less than £270m in 2012-13. The prime minister, David Cameron, has pledged to spend £400m a year on flood defences over the next six years and there was a one-off spending boost following the Somerset Levels floods.
But the National Audit Office warned in November 2014 that excluding this, funding had fallen by 10% in real terms since 2010-11.
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