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UK floods: David Cameron pledges unlimited public funds




 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK floods: David Cameron pledges unlimited public funds” was written by Patrick Wintour and Robert Booth, for The Guardian on Tuesday 11th February 2014 21.11 UTC

A resolute David Cameron vowed to marshal the forces of the state to tackle the flooding crisis, pledging a wider role for the army and unlimited public funds to protect families.

After two days of Whitehall infighting and mixed messages, the prime minister returned from visiting stricken communities in south-west England to hold a Downing Street press conference at which he sought to assert his authority over the natural disaster.

In words that may yet come back to haunt him, Cameron said: “My message to the country today is this. Money is no object in this relief effort, whatever money is needed for it will be spent. We will take whatever steps are necessary”. He insisted “we are a wealthy country and we have taken good care of our public finances”.

With many communities complaining about the lack of help from official agencies, Cameron claimed that the emergency Gold Command system was working well, but he added: “It is clear the military could play a bigger role.”

He explained that 1,600 personnel will have been deployed and thousands more were available.

David Cameron

David Cameron meets residents in a flooded area of Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Downing Street over the past 48 hours has been concerned that soldiers have so far been underused and confined to working on flood defences, rather than helping out exhausted volunteers struggling to save homes.

Hard-hit communities along the Thames and on the Somerset levels were warned to expect further heavy rain and strong winds on Wednesday.

There were 121 flood warnings in place, 16 of which were severe, including warnings for Chertsey and Wraysbury, which have already been heavily affected. So far, about 1,000 properties have been reported as flooded over the past week.

Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said there was potential for more significant flooding. “Stormy weather will continue to threaten communities this week, with further flooding expected along the Thames in Berkshire and Surrey,” he said. “River levels are high across south-west, central and southern England.”

Attempting Flood Defences

A resident moves sandbags in the centre of the village of Datchet. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

 

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