Sunday, 30 March 2014

A disappointing government response to flooding in West Cornwall

Perhaps the title is a little misleading, I certainly could write a great long post on the subject in general. If you haven't seen it already Cllr Andrew Wallis has a great blog post revealing government funding for fishermen is not in fact new at all. Other government announcements have also been tokenistic. I wrote in the Western Morning News  on the budget and the chance it was to realign priorities in general, address the unfairness in budget cuts and funding for Cornwall, I wrote that the Chancellor's budget was high time for Cameron's grand announcement that "money is no object" and government will "pick up the tab" to be turned from empty rhetoric to actual funding. This unfortunately did not happen. This post aims to deal with the response to my letter to the Prime Minister, which I have finally received. Since I wrote that on the 23rd of February, Penzance Town Council unanimously voted to support a letter to the PM roughly saying the same thing and including a call for a break water, hopefully the council gets a better reply.

My email was quickly shuffled from the Prime Minister's office to DEFRA, which I think was disappointing as I had not only addressed the question of flood defences and funding but also Penzance's rail link. If I was disappointed that neither the PM nor the Department of Transport would consider making our rail line more resilient, then that was frame of mind I could keep for the subsequent reply. It soon starts:

"As I am sure you will appreciate, we have received exceptionally high volumes of correspondence relating to the current flooding incidents. Unfortunately it will not be possible to provide a personal response to every letter as we are focusing our efforts on the recovery. However, I hope this information on the Government’s response is useful."

Then goes on to make various generic points about the flooding situation, in what is no doubt a stock reply. Quiet why it took a whole month to get such an identikit email, I'm not sure....


It carries on, explaining about the number of properties and farmland protected from flooding. A quizzical reference: "military personnel are still on standby" (when was that written!?!), government commitments to flood defences and "erosion risk management". It's hard to criticise any of it government pronouncements and government action are often two different things, but until the latter becomes the former, who knows what might happen? But there are a number of absences in the reply. There is not one mention of our rail line or transport infrastructure at all. As we've seen in the last weeks there have been adequate government pronouncements on flood defences, protecting homes but precious little -if anything- on sea defences. Everything is about protecting inland areas (quite rightly) but nothing for the coast.

Despite having two of Cornwall's MPs in DEFRA, this is the level of thought and attention that goes into policy in Cornwall. No thought at all to how extreme weather effects coastal communities. No real intent to think of it either. No flexibility that parts of the UK might need more thinking or perhaps a bespoke solution. Much like the email reply, the government's response to flooding is dated, not really relevant to Cornwall and lacks any desire to address these issues.