Weather warnings have almost become a way of life in recent months, with one storm after another battering the country.
We have all seen the pictures and the news coverage. Parts of the country, especially in Yorkshire and Cumbria, have been hit especially hard – and it’s highly likely that the situation will only get worse in years to come.
There has been some terrible flooding, which has ruined homes, forced people into temporary accommodation and led to mass clean-up operations. This type of residential flooding can also bring out the best in local communities, just as we saw in Kirklees recently when so many people joined together to help those whose homes were affected.
At the same time, we shouldn’t forget the crucial impact of flooding on local businesses. This can badly disrupt trade or, in some cases, cause it to stop entirely. It can place businesses in jeopardy, affect the wider chain and put jobs at risk.
Amongst all the storms we’ve experienced recently, I’m sure you remember Storm Eva which struck between December 25th and 27th. It’s estimated that the economic impact across our region was around £365million – and this doesn’t even include the cost of residential flood damage.
As a result, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), which brings together the five West Yorkshire councils, plus York, is aiming to establish a Business Flood Recovery Fund. This really highlights the way that local authorities work together in mutual support, taking a broader view of the region so that we all join forces in achieving results. Crucially, the recovery fund will help businesses get back on their feet on occasions when their very existence might be under threat.
Across the combined authority, the initial investment will be up to £1.4million with a view to adding a further £3.6million the following year. The proposal is to provide grants to flood-affected businesses – mainly small and medium-sized enterprises – in a flexible way that best meets the demand.
We already know there are many businesses which need this type of funding. Some are strategically important, especially those with significant supply chains, and have seen their premises or equipment written off, putting them out of action until support is received.
I am pleased to support WYCA in establishing this recovery fund, which will benefit the Kirklees economy as well as the broader region. Storm Eva is just one example of bad weather quickly bringing chaos to thousands of people. Here in Kirklees, generally speaking, we had a lucky escape as the damage could have been more widespread. We do have our own fund to get businesses back working and residents back to normal life, but we don’t know what will happen next time, or the time after . . . . so it’s good to know local councils are working together in such a valuable way.
I’M SURE you have seen the recent news about the NHS proposal to close the accident and emergency department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Not surprisingly, this has provoked a very strong response across Kirklees and beyond.
Kirklees councillors have agreed to hold a special meeting to focus solely on this vital debate. The meeting will happen soon and I’m sure this is an issue on which all councillors, regardless of their political background, will be united.