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Fri, 5 June 2020

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Boris Johnson stayed away from floods to avoid emergency 'distracting' from response, says Number 10

Boris Johnson stayed away from floods to avoid emergency 'distracting' from response, says Number 10
3 min read

Boris Johnson has stayed away from flood-hit parts of the country because he does not want to "distract" from recovery efforts, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister has faced intense criticism in recent days over his response to the devastation caused across the United Kingdom by Storms Ciara and Dennis.

Critics have pointed out that Mr Johnson was prepared to visit areas affected by flooding during last year's general election campaign.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Prime Minister of showing his "true colours" by so far refusing to visit the areas affected, while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has branded the Government's response "shocking".

But Number 10 on Monday defended the Prime Minister's handling of the crisis - and rejected claims that he had instead been holidaying at the Foreign Secretary's grace-and-favour Chevening country house during last week's Parliamentary recess.

The Prime Minister's official spokesperson said: "The PM was working last week. He was working on a range of issues - he had calls with President Xi in relation to coronavirus and other matters. He spoke with President Trump and he was receiving updates in relation to the work which was going on across government on flooding."

And they added: "We are hugely grateful to all of those who have helped with the response, from the Environment Agency to the engineers and emergency services out on the ground, to the military who stepped in to assist.

"The Government has extensive plans in place to deal with these kinds of extreme weather events and we are working tirelessly to help all those affected. The Environment Secretary and his department is rightly leading the government response to this, ensuring that busy teams working around the clock have the resources they need and it's important not to distract from that ongoing effort."

There are currently 95 flood warnings and almost 200 flood alerts in place across the country, include a severe warning - meaning an imminent danger to life - in place for the River Severn.

On Monday a string of Welsh politicians wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to demand more £30m funding for households and businesses affected by the "national emergency" of flooding in the Rhondda Cynon Taf region.

The letter, signed by Labour MPs Chris Elmore, Chris Bryant, Alex Davies-Jones and Beth Winter, tells the Treasury: "Our belief in the Union leads us to conclude that when any part of the United Kingdom is hit particularly hard, the whole of the UK should help out, regardless of the normal funding rules.

"We therefore urge you as a matter of urgency to provide specific one-off funding for RCT (Rhondda Cynon Taff)."

Ministers last week announced a raft of new measures to help those affected by the floods, including a new £500 "financial hardship payment" and council tax and business rates relief.

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