Labour would create Cobra-style taskforce to tackle flooding

A Cobra-style taskforce would be introduced to help prevent flooding, Labour has said, as it hit out at Government “failure” to protect communities.

It comes as areas across Scotland and north-east England attempt to recover after being hit with the worst of Storm Babet, which caused serious damage and several deaths when it hit last week.

Labour said that it would create a flood resilience taskforce that would meet before every winter and would co-ordinate preparation between the Government, local councils and emergency services.

The party said that the new body would ensure vulnerable areas are identified in advance, as well as providing accountability for progress on flood prevention.

It claimed that ministers’ inaction on the issue has cost the economy nearly £4 billion since 2010 across four major floods, accusing the Conservatives of “complacency”.

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.”

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

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Flooding can be devastating to communities – which is why we are investing a record £5.2 billion 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.”

Environment Secretary Therese 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.

The Conservatives said Labour had “copy and pasted” the action the Government was already taking, in a dig at shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves who is facing accusations of apparent plagiarism in her new book.

“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.