Pickles: 'Might have been a problem' over floods response

The Communities and Local Government Secretary has appeared to suggest the Government and authorities may have been slow to react to the problem of the flooding. Ministers have announced an extra £30m for emergency repairs - £130m in total.

PM: 'We will continue to keep up our urgent response'

Number 10 has issued a statement from the Prime Minister about this evening's meeting between ministers and officials about the extreme weather:

Today, Royal Marine Commandos from Taunton have been deployed in Somerset to fill sandbags and provide relief to the local emergency services, as more bad weather is forecast.

The Environment Agency has ordered specialist pumping equipment to clear roads, in addition to the extra pumps we have already sent, and they will keep looking at all options for pumping and dredging.

I want to reassure everyone affected by these terrible storms that we will continue to keep up our urgent response and help get them back on the move.

– David Cameron

Read more: Government pledges extra £30m on urgent flood defence repairs

Watch: Minister: "Maybe there was a problem of communications at the beginning" of the flood response

Miliband blasts 'slack flood planning and slow reaction'

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said that both the planning and the response to the floods was inadequate, saying: "the Government has been slack in planning and slow to help those affected"

Mr Miliband also called on David Cameron to "do what he promised what he would do at the end of last month and tell the country whether the right investment in flood protection is in place."

Watch: Prime Minister: I'll visit Somerset when time is right

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Pickles 'entirely agrees' with Charles' flood criticism

The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said he "entirely agreed" with Prince Charles's criticism about authorities' response to the floods.

He said: "I think people were surprised...but as soon as were alerted by the authorities we acted promptly."

Watch: Prince Charles speaks of Somerset flooding 'tragedy'

However, Mr Pickles would not be drawn in to if it were the Government or the Environment Agency who 'took so long' to react to the floods.

Earlier this week Prince Charles said the "tragedy" in flood-hit Somerset "is that nothing happened for so long" to help as he met local residents, farmers and emergency services personnel who have been affected.

Watch: Eric Pickles claims Environment Agency should have done more

Environment Agency chair: 'Sure I will hear robust views'

Lord Smith is to visit the Somerset Levels tomorrow for the first time since the flooding began Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith has said he is sure he will "hear robust views" during his visit to flood-hit Somerset tomorrow.

He added: "I'll be glad to hear robust views because it's very important that the people who are immediately affected by flooding get the chance to say what their concerns are."

Watch: Prime Minister says: I'll visit Somerset 'when the time is right'

South west rail network 'needs a long-term solution'

A huge length of railway track is exposed and left hanging after the sea wall collapsed in Dawlish.
A huge length of railway track is exposed and left hanging after the sea wall collapsed in Dawlish. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Transport Secretary has called for a review of the long term future of the south west railway system.

Patrick McLoughlin said: "The immediate priority is to assess the damage and develop a plan to get the line back into service as soon as possible.

"But I am acutely conscious that the need to develop a long-term solution to the resilience of the railway network in the south west, and I have asked for a report to me on the options for addressing this problem."

Read more: Record 75 foot waves in Cornwall as more storms hit UK

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Environment Agency chief to visit Somerset Levels

The Chair of the Environment Agency Lord Smith will visit Somerset tomorrow:

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NEW: Chair of @envagency Lord Chris Smith to visit Somerset Levels TOMORROW for first time since #floods began

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Lord Smith of @envagency tells me he never said we had to CHOOSE between saving town or country. Saving life is first priority. Homes next

Pickles: 'There might have been a problem at the start'

The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has appeared to suggest that the Government and authorities may have been slow to react to the problem of the flooding.

Speaking to Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship, Mr Pickles said the Government "responded promptly and quickly to the Somerset authorities' request."

He added: "I don't mind that there might have been a problem at the beginning. Maybe there was a problem of communications.

"I neither know nor I care. What I care about is doing something about the Somerset Levels."

Mr Pickles has taken charge of the government's response to flooding after the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson required emergency eye surgery.

He blamed the Environment Agency for failing to dredge rivers. "I certainly believe that perhaps the decision taken regard to abandonment of dredging perhaps wasn't the wisest."

Read more: Government announces extra £30m for emergency flood repairs

Farage: Aid spending should be diverted for UK flooding

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has said that Britain's spending on foreign aid should be diverted to help deal with the flooding crisis in the UK.

He said: "Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that a government's primary duty is to the well-being of its own citizens."

Describing the government's response as "both lethargic and inadequate," he said people "would be forgiven for thinking that ... ordinary British families are not their priority."

Read: Govt commits to protecting 42,000 homes from floods

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