Council urged to tighten up flooding response after storms cause chaos

Council chiefs in Kirklees have been urged to review the authority’s flooding policy after people were told they would not be given emergency sandbags until their homes began to flood.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 1:00 pm
Just one part of Mirfield that was affected by flooding after last week's storms. Photo: Martyn Bolt
Just one part of Mirfield that was affected by flooding after last week's storms. Photo: Martyn Bolt

The call came following three back-to-back storms, torrential rain and wild winds that led to floods, damaged homes and power cuts.

Senior Labour councillor Naheed Mather said staff had “managed really well” under what she described as “extenuating circumstances” and added: “We were prepared for one storm, but we had three.”

In requesting better preparedness in future, Conservative group leader Coun David Hall asked her to give urgent thought to putting more cash into tackling what are increasingly frequent events.

Sign up to our daily Dewsbury Reporter Today newsletter

There was widespread flooding in Kirklees as well as power cuts and damage from strong winds caused by the storms.

Coun Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) highlighted “substantial flooding” in the Spen Valley over the weekend and said: “We were told repeatedly when we rang up that no sandbags would be available until properties were beginning to flood.

“Would she agree with me that this is not a good policy to have?

“We had quite distressed residents and we were out, other councillors and myself, talking to residents on Sunday night.

“Could she please clarify what the policy is and, if that is not the policy, could she urgently review the policy to make sure we’re getting the right answers on the ground, please?”

Coun Mather (Dalton) said resources “were not an issue” in dealing with the weather emergency and that sandbags were delivered to homes “but there is a priority order of how things are done”.

Coun Hall suggested that despite “a full week’s warning from the Met Office” the council had not put in enough resources “to combat what we knew was going to be a very bad flooding event”.

There was also an exchange of opinions about accessing help via emergency hotlines with Coun Hall describing how some people could not get through.

Coun Mather said anyone who had contacted her directly had been given assistance.

She said: “Those that got in touch with the right people did get the sandbags and were looked after appropriately.

“I know for a fact if they came to me that sandbags had been delivered.

“Members of staff came out to ensure that all our residents were safe not only on roads and bridges but within their own properties.

“You learn by use. Next time we’ll do better.”

Responding to calls from the Greens’ Coun Andrew Cooper for the council to pay for “sandless sand sacks” for those that needed them, council leader Coun Shabir Pandor pledged to review the sandbag policy.

Coun Cooper (Newsome) said he and ward colleagues were prepared to use ward funds to buy the sand sacks if the council could not – and offered to use his own garage as a store “because people will be able to get in touch with me if they’re not able to reach the council”.