Clegg refuses to step in to help

DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has refused to intervene to save Morpeth’s flood scheme.

Mr Clegg saw the devastation of the September 2008 flood at first hand when he visited the town in the weeks after the disaster.

He spoke to householders about their ordeal and his own determination to see flood protection work stepped up.

But now his office has said the decision on the town’s proposed £17million flood alleviation project is a matter for the Environment Agency.

Last month, Agency officials warned that national funding is unlikely to be provided for the work to start this year and in future, the community may have to find some of the cash itself.

At the time of Mr Clegg’s visit to Morpeth in October 2008, he told the Herald: “The Environment Agency had some suggestions about flood defences in this area well before the flooding took place. I think it is now essential that those are accelerated and accelerated fast.

“If my memory serves me correctly, they were first identified by the Environment Agency last year. I don’t think we can lose another month before those plans start being put into place.”

He added: “I think what we need generally is to give the Environment Agency a clearer national mandate to not only map the country so we know exactly where we are vulnerable to flooding, but also greater resources and authority to then put in place measures which will prevent flooding.

“It is the Environment Agency that I think needs to be given the statutory authority to do that work, make those innovations and have the money to do it.

“The budget needs to be brought up to about £1billion. We have estimated that to be the right level at the moment.”

After the Agency’s recent announcement about funding for the Morpeth scheme, the Herald was unable to contact Mr Clegg directly.

However, a spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister said: “The Deputy Prime Minister has seen for himself the traumatic and distressing effects of floods such as those in Morpeth in 2008.

“Since then, £2.4million has been spent on emergency works in the area. Any further work is a decision for the Environment Agency and the Regional Flood Defence Committee later this year.”

Morpeth resident Iain Havery was one of those who opened up his High Stanners home to Mr Clegg in 2008 to show the impact of the flood on his family.

He said he is disappointed at the politician’s current position, but not surprised.

“The guy stood in my house and said he would do all he could to make sure that Morpeth was properly defended and obviously I’m disappointed that he hasn’t seen fit to do that,” said Mr Havery.

“It is not just him, but the fact that he came into my house and said it to my face is disappointing.

“The whole thing about the flood scheme is no surprise. We have been expecting it to be honest.”