In Brief

Boris Johnson under fire for response to flooding

Prime minister accused of ‘utterly outrageous’ lack of concern

Boris Johnson has been accused of an “utterly outrageous” lack of concern about the severe floods that have caused devastation and misery in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.

After the floods hit parts of Nottinghamshire, Simon Greaves, the Labour leader of Bassetlaw district council, said the prime minister was “preoccupied with electioneering” when he should have been coordinating a national response to the flooding.

Speaking to The Guardian, Greaves said the government had a “fantastic opportunity to step up to the plate and take emergency action” but were “concentrating more on the general election campaign than they were on people’s lives”.

He added: “They had an opportunity to take action [and] they consciously chose not to. I think it’s utterly outrageous.”

The criticism comes after Jeremy Corbyn called on the prime minister to “take personal charge” of the situation yesterday. Blaming government cuts for the severity of the damage, the Labour leader promised to inject more funding into flood defences.

He denounced Johnson for not declaring a national emergency, saying: “If this had happened in Surrey, not Yorkshire or the east Midlands, it seems far more likely that a national emergency would have been declared.”

The Liberal Democrats have pledged £5bn for flood prevention measures and their leader, Jo Swinson, has  echoed Corbyn’s call for the government to declare the floods a “national emergency”.

There was further criticism from local politicians. David Hughes, the mayor of Matlock, said: “Obviously if people are flooded for days and days on end then it is an emergency for them and it seems to be over a large area.”

Tony Nicholson, a Green councillor in the Doncaster suburb of Bentley, which remained under a severe flood warning yesterday, echoed Corbyn’s sentiment, saying: “If this was in another area this would be deemed a national emergency. This is devastating for people’s lives.”

However, Jane Cox, the leader of the Conservative group on Doncaster council, said of the flooding: “I firmly believe it should not be politicised.”

The prime minister chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra yesterday.

More than 1,200 properties have been evacuated in northern England. A woman died after being swept away by floodwater in Darley Dale near Matlock.

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