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  1. ITV Report

Boris Johnson insists 'whole county is protected' after backlash from opposition over flood defences

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

Boris Johnson has insisted "the whole country is protected" when it comes down to flood defences after receiving criticism from politicians over what they perceived as a slow response from the government.

"The flood defences, the whole country is protected, I don't know where that idea comes from," he said.

Severe flooding hit several areas in Yorkshire and the East Midlands last week with areas around the River Don near Doncaster worst affected after the river burst its banks.

Downpours last week meant several areas in Yorkshire and the East Midlands were struck by a month’s worth of rain in a single day.

Around half the 700 residents of Fishlake, near Doncaster, left the village and those who stayed behind have faced waist-high floods.

Other villages have been similarly affected.

Volunteers have praised the community efforts rallying together but are "very angry" with the government's response.

Many residents feel their situation is being used as a political stunt in the run-up to the General Election.

Fishlake resident Nicky Hill returned to her flooded home with ITV News, and said she felt that politicians had just come to "lay a sandbag and get a few photos taken and leave again".

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson chaired a meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra, as pressure mounted on ministers to take action.

Speaking afterwards, the Prime Minister said £2,500 would be made available to businesses affected by flooding, while an additional 100 Armed Forces personnel will be deployed to help the recovery effort.

He added that the country must "prepare for more floods" this winter because the ground is so waterlogged.

The Conservative candidate for Uxbridge also urged people in flood-hit areas to heed the advice of the emergency services .

He said: "The worry for me is that there are some people who are continuing not to listen to the advice of the emergency services.

"I would just say to people - the emergency services do have sound advice. When they advise you to evacuate, you should do so."

Mr Johnson added: "In the next few weeks and months, the rainfall could cause flooding in many parts of the country and we simply have to be prepared."

He said the authorities are working "flat out" to deliver an adequate response, adding: "I know there will be people who feel that that isn't good enough.

"I know there will be people who are worrying about the damage to their homes, who will be worried about the insurance situation, worried about the losses they face.

"All I want to say to those people is that there are schemes to cover those losses."

It comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the Government's response as "woeful" and visited the area for the second time since Friday, this time visiting the village of Bentley.

Mr Corbyn said if the flooding had happened in Surrey in the South East, it "would have been a very different story".

During his visit on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn said a Labour government would create a £5.6 billion fund over 10 years to correct what he says is a regional imbalance in flood defences.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson accused the Government of not taking the situation seriously enough.

During a visit to Stainforth, Ms Swinson met scores of people whose homes are still underwater and who bemoaned a lack of help from authorities, but also used the visit to speak about £5 billion the Liberal Democrats would give to the flood pledge defence programme.

Jo Swinson is the latest party leader to visit flood-hit South Yorkshire. Credit: PA

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger was with Ms Swinson and said that locals had told the party leader volunteers have been working 18-hour shifts to ensure the victims of nearby flooding are fed and clothed.

Stainforth resident Stuart Bolton told ITV News of the "amazing" way the flooding had "drawn the community together", but attacked the Government's response.

"The way the community has pulled together here, it's amazing really, it's very uplifting, especially as Stainforth is a very deprived area, bottom 5% in the country, and yet people are still giving to their neighbours that are in distress," Mr Bolton said.

But when asked about the Government response, he was more negative: "I think it's absolutely shocking, the Cobra thing they've put in force...

"I mean, that should've been put in force at the start."

Iris Moore, who has been cooking meals to help families and those affected by the floods, says she is "very angry" by the lack of support Stainforth received.

"I'm very angry about it, yes, I think they should be starting to spend some money around here, around Fishlake, around Stainforth."

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The Government's emergency Bellwin scheme reimburses councils for costs they incur during a response to flooding, for items such as rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime.

Annie Hall, the former high sheriff of Derbyshire, died after she was swept away by water on Friday in Darley Dale, near Matlock.

Former high sheriff of Derbyshire Annie Hall died after she was swept away by water on Friday in Darley Dale, near Matlock.

Five severe flood warnings from the Environment Agency remain in place around Doncaster, warning of a danger to life in the areas around the River Don at Bentley, Fishlake, Kirk Bramwith, South Bramwith and Willow Bridge Caravan Site.

Thirty-eight flood warnings are in place across the country, with 12 around the River Don.