York flood volunteers buttonholed the Prime Minister tonight (Monday, March 21) about the ongoing problems in the city.
Emma Davis and Cary MacMahon were invited to a 10 Downing Street reception for flood volunteers from across the UK by York Central MP Rachael Maskell.
The three of them took the opportunity to tell David Cameron that the city was still suffering serious problems nearly three months after the inundation which began on Boxing Day.
“I pulled the Prime Minister over to talk to us,” Ms Maskell told YorkMix. “He didn’t spend long talking to people, but I made sure that we had a good moment with him to raise some issues.”
That’s not acceptable after the floods, therefore we needed resources to go into supporting people in their homes in the longer term.
Cary agreed. “There are still people sitting on Navigation Road estate who have no floor coverings, they’re in damp homes, they’ve got damp belongings – and the only alternative accommodation they’ve been offered is in hostels.
“That’s simply not acceptable.”
‘It’s about people’
The MP recently won a commitment from the floods minister Rory Stewart to “provide the correct funds for the correct solution for the Foss barrier”.
But she told the Prime Minister “that it’s not just about barriers it’s about people”.
Volunteer Cary MacMahon tackled the PM on the flood resilience grants. Householders can apply for up to £5K to help “flood proof” their homes in future.
“I made the point that a £5,000 grant is all very well for some houses, but for other houses we’re looking at up to £20-£30,000 of flood resilience measures,” Cary said.
“The Prime Minister said that he would look into it. He also did, I must admit, look rather pained at the thought that some houses might need flood resilience measures of up to £30,000.”
‘Need more support’
Also at the reception were floods minster Rory Stewart, Environment Secretary Liz Truss and City of York Council acting chief executive Steve Stewart.
Emma Davis talked to them about some of the people who are still suffering.
We talked about the possibility of some sort of warning system, like a siren or even just having flood wardens in certain areas with a megaphone – the old fashioned way, telling people to move their stuff upstairs.
Rachael Maskell praised the people who had volunteered to help during and after the floods. Their effort was “fantastic” and had “made the city”.
She said the official agencies needed to learn lessons.
It’s important that we recognise that, learn from that, and make sure it never, ever happens again.
Open for business
Cary said the volunteers wanted to work with the council. “But so often the reaction, particularly at the more senior levels of the council, has been very defensive.”
There was no political agenda to volunteers raising their concerns. “CYC and others need to get a handle on the fact that this isn’t a political agenda, this is to do with working together as a community.
“All we want to do is help. We want to get all of York back on its feet – dried out. We want householders back, we want business owners working again.
“That doesn’t take away from the fact that York needs to be open for business. The two are not contradictory.”
That message was supported by Rachael Maskell.
“York is open for business. It’s so important that people come here, spend their money here, because businesses were hard hit when the floods came.”