Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Party, writes an open letter to Conservative MP Mark Garnier about his reaction to the Bewdley floods:
Dear Mark Garnier MP,
There is no doubt that the floods in Bewdley have been devastating for the town, but especially for a number of residents directly affected who have suffered greatly.
Your sudden enthusiasm for a resolution to the problems of flooding are indeed welcome.
Where have you been on flood protection since 2010?
Where have you been on the cause of flooding which is climate change since 2010?
Where have you been on protecting funding for the Environment Agency since 2010?
Where have you been in advocating for adequate resources for our Fire & Rescue Services since 2010?
Where have you been on looking after the interests of all the other public service responders like our local council since 2010?
I therefore note with some level of surprise your recent comments in an article published in the Shuttle where you express that you were “uncomfortable” with the provision of the property level protection (PLP) and I conclude also the temporary barriers at Beales Corner in Bewdley.
Further, you go on to say that the measures “failed at every level.”
You reference Treasury costs calculations as preventing more permanent type protection structures because Government went for the cheaper option. Yet it’s clear from what you say that residents warned you about the risks when in the article you say “Residents argued that the PLP would fail and they were right – at the first time it was tested.”
A casual observer might dare to ask, did you listen to them? Your constituents? Did you champion their concerns at that time with the Treasury rather than be “always uncomfortable about it and endless assurances that they would be fine proved empty”?
Residents were not the only ones calling for better flood protection. Bewdley Town Council had long adopted a policy of advocating for a form of permanent barriers at Beales Corner. Is it to be assumed that you ignored their concerns too or offered mere platitudes on the subject?
Frankly, it’s all rather lame as a response from you after the event. An MP should be measured by what they do to stand up for their constituents before disaster, and when warned, not after. Grenfell is a perfect example of that. This is another example albeit on a different scale.
The claim you told Boris Johnson, our PM, not to come during the crisis is also somewhat incredulous. The PM was nowhere to be seen, in any constituency, anywhere. Was that also down to you? The country actually thought he was either in hiding or on another one of his infamous holidays. He should have been here when it mattered, showing support, not in hiding, just waiting to swoop on us in some kind of post traumatic shock PR stunt for your benefit and the media’s.
Nevertheless, it seems the power you have over him is truly remarkable. Not least because you were previously quite happy to allow inadequate measures to be in place after listening to the Treasury, and no doubt some manner of cliched soothing assurances. Yet, when the damage was already done, we are now supposed to believe you invited the PM, and he immediately heeded that call promising to “get Bewdley done”.
On that particular promise, we will wait and see won’t we?
I’ll be reminding you of our over-promising and usually lying PM’s words on a regular basis, so I truly hope that with your new found power over the PM you really do press him to “get Bewdley done”.
Bewdley residents, and indeed many others affected across Wyre Forest, deserve to be listened to, and deserve action going forward to prevent any repeat. Our public services require major investment in both revenue and infrastructure. Something you have consistently voted against in Parliament.
The last major investment in Bewdley’s flood defences for instance came from the last Labour Government, so time will tell if we’ll have to wait until then before it happens.
In the meantime, myself and my colleagues are watching what you do next with interest. We want to know following your election victory last December whether you will now become a ‘do something’ MP for Wyre Forest, or merely persist with the opportunistic spin and fence sitting that has delivered very little tangible benefits for your constituents?
So, please do tell us, are you to continue to be a hypocrite, an opportunist, or both?
Wyre Forest Labour Party