Cameron defends flood prevention funding on visit to York


David Cameron defended funding for flood prevention as he visited York to see recovery efforts after towns and cities across the north of England were inundated over Christmas.

The Prime Minister rejected claims that there was a "north/south divide" in efforts to prevent flooding as areas took advantage of a respite from the rain.

But with more rain forecast for the middle of the week there may be worse to come, and the Environment Agency (EA) still has nine severe flood warnings in place - meaning there remains a danger to life.

Rain will batter the north of England on Wednesday with up to 3in (80mm) falling on high ground and potentially in excess of 4.7in (120mm) in exposed locations - with most places seeing up to 1.5in (40mm).

Some 500 military troops have been mobilised to aid emergency services, with another 1,000 on standby should the situation worsen.

Mr Cameron was heckled as he arrived in flood-hit areas of York where large swathes of the city are submerged and hundreds of homes have been evacuated.

One woman shouted: "No more cuts to public services" as he spoke to a team from the Scarborough mountain rescue, who had deployed with a dinghy on a submerged street in the city centre.

As he visited a sand bag filling station on the outskirts of the city after meeting with officials coordinating the response, Mr Cameron hailed the "amazing" response of the emergency services and volunteers.

He said it was untrue that funding for flood defences had seen a 20% cut but insisted a major review of policy would look at whether more needed to be done and whether the strategy should be changed.

"We spent more in the last parliament than the previous parliament and we are going to spend even more in this parliament. So it is a rising budget - £2.3 billion on capital schemes that will make a real difference up and down the country," he told Sky News.

"As I say, though - let's have a look and see if more needs to be done and whether the flood defences need to be made higher than they have already, and that's exactly what we'll look at.

He hit back at a claim by the leader of the council in flood-hit Leeds, Judith Blake, that northern cities were the victim of "preventable" disasters and said people felt "very strongly" that more help was given to the south.

"We spend more per head of the population on flood defences in the north than we do in the south," Mr Cameron said.

"But the key thing is to spend the money where it's needed.

"Here in Yorkshire, for instance, we've spent £100 million on flood defences since I became Prime Minister. We plan to spend, in this parliament, an extra £280 million, so almost three times as much again."