Cameron Renews Pledge to Help Flood Victims in New Year Message

  • Says `competent management' of economy allows emergency funds
  • Opposition parties criticize government flood-defense plans

Prime Minister David Cameron renewed a pledge to help families hit by flooding in the north of the U.K., saying sound economic management is giving the government greater scope to aid affected households, as he faced increased criticism for failing to provide adequate flood defenses.

“Because of our competent management of the economy, we are not only able to fund the necessary flood defenses, emergency services and support, we can actually be flexible about what we spend and where we spend it,” Cameron said in an article for the Conservative Home website, aimed at Tory party activists, published Friday. “So when we face unprecedented and unexpected flooding we are able to give help to families when they need it.”

Thousands of families across northern England and Scotland have had to evacuate their homes or been left without power due to rising waters in recent weeks as flood defenses have been overwhelmed. Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne have faced criticism from opposition parties that not enough has been spent on flood defenses after a third bout of severe weather over Christmas, and more rain is forecast.

The opposition Labour Party’s finance spokesman, John McDonnell, said Tuesday the government “can’t be seen to be bean counting” as a report by KPMG LLP estimated the heavy rain and flooding may have caused a loss to the economy of 5.8 billion pounds ($8.6 billion).

‘Red Flags’

“Cameron and Osborne have ignored red flag after red flag,” Simon Wren-Lewis, professor of economic policy at Oxford University and one of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s economic advisers, said in a blog post on Wednesday, as he highlighted cuts to local-government funding on flood defenses. “Cuts that make no sense in economic terms have been made with costs that probably now run in the order of a billion and counting, with plenty of human misery attached.”

While help to those affected by flooding featured prominently in Cameron’s New Year’s message, he also focused on the need for social reform, repeating promises to increase home ownership and tackle the causes of poverty.

He also pledged to tackle extremism in the U.K. by seeking to improve integration in response to a review planned later this year.

“We’re going to spend this year delivering the education, training, jobs, tax cuts, health care and housing people need,” Cameron said. “But we’re also going to make sure no one should be on the outside looking in at all these things -- that everyone is a part of Britain’s rise. In doing so, we can make 2016 a game changer for our country.”

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