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West Norfolk councillor warns residents being 'let down' on flooding in call for single body to take charge

A West Norfolk councillor has issued an open letter calling for a single body to be made responsible for managing flooding issues.

Residents across the borough have been left counting the cost of the repeated deluges that have hit the area in recent weeks.

Now, borough and county councillor Sandra Squire has urged county leader Andrew Proctor to petition the government to make the system simpler.

Councillor Sandra Squire(19275982)
Councillor Sandra Squire(19275982)

She says one body should be responsible, with a single emergency contact number for residents to call when they need help.

Mrs Squire, who represents the Marshland North division at County Hall, said she was spending an increasing amount of time trying to help residents with flooding issues and the problem was only likely to worsen becuase of climate change.

She wrote: "With so many groups and agencies involved, it is difficult for residents to know who they need to talk to.

Too many bodies are involved in flood response work, says councillor Sandra Squir
Too many bodies are involved in flood response work, says councillor Sandra Squir

"In my division, the council takes the view that unless it is a road that is flooded, then it is the responsibility of the IDB (Internal Drainage Board), whereas the IDB is only responsible if it is one of their drains causing the issue.

"When you add in the Flood Team, Anglian Water and the EA (Environment Agency) for example, residents and councillors spend all of their time just going round in circles with everyone claiming that any problems are someone else’s responsibility.

"Meanwhile residents keep an eye on the weather forecast trying to work out if they’re going to be able to flush their toilets or will be sweeping floodwater out of their properties in the next few days.

"There are too many agencies sitting around talking about things, when what is actually needed is one single agency to manage flooding.

"A single agency with one simple emergency contact number for residents, with the staff and equipment to provide an agile response to issues when they arise."

Last month, the county council's cabinet pledged to set aside a further £650,000 for urgent flood repairs and investigations.

A meeting of the authority's infrastructure select committee last Thursday was told that a £1.5 million reserve fund is to be set up during the next financial year for flooding issues.

There are also plans to establish a task force working with MPs and other bodies to ensure the Environment Agency has appropriate funding plans in place to tackle known problems, as well as developing formal memoranda of understanding with other organisations.

The committee was told that, while clean-up operations are continuing, around 180 internal flooding reports had been submitted across Norfolk following the recent bad weather and more were still coming in.

The committee's chairman, Barry Stone, said: "It’s a massive job and it’s not going to be easy. There are dozens of agencies involved."

But, in her letter, Mrs Squire said meetings would make no difference to affected residents.

She said: "We, and all the other agencies, groups and quangos are letting down the residents of Norfolk. We are sitting fiddling while Norfolk floods again and again.

"It is too late sending out sandbags when the water is already in the house.

"In the time it takes to produce more reports, ditches could be dug or cleaned out to avoid ongoing issues."

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