As we start 2016 it’s usual to approach a new year with a renewed sense of optimism but for some in our community the devastating floods over Christmas will leave a long shadow.
The floods were at their most severe on The Avenue in Collingham where the sight of over nine feet of water engulfing some homes was a something I had hoped I would not see again after the floods of 2007.
But just as it did back then, the community kicked into action and we came together to support those affected. Coun Matthew Robinson did an outstanding job in the aftermath of the devastation, working with so many villagers and coordinating with Leeds City Council officials to start the long task of recovery.
Now the attention of the media has moved on to other stories we are still left with some fundamental problems: to establish how the flood defences failed, how they can be improved and when the roads and bridges can be re-opened?
The Avenue should have been protected by a flood barrier, but water simply overwhelmed it. It is now vital that the modelling of water flow in the River Wharfe is analysed quickly to protect these homes, but at the same time ensuring that we don’t push the problem further down river.
Also Coun Robinson and I were on-site paying close attention to the road bridge between Collingham and Linton.
There does not appear to be a quick answer to the structural damage that has occurred to the bridge, which is still moving from its foundations. Until engineers and divers are able to ascertain to what extent the bridge has moved, repair work cannot get underway.
Coun Robinson is working with Leeds City Council Highways team and I have invited the Yorkshire Flood Envoy, Robert Goodwill MP, to come and see the situation. I will continue to work closely with local councillors to try to get the road bridge re-opened as soon as possible, but we have to understand what forces caused it to buckle and move.
At the House of Commons one of the key new laws the Conservative Government has implemented and utilised is English Votes for English Laws.
When the last Labour Government gave greater devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament they created a situation by which Scottish MPs still had the right to vote on laws affecting only England.
This Conservative Government used a new standing procedure of the House to ensure that only MPs whose constituents are affected by the Housing and Planning Bill were able to vote on this particular piece of legislation.
The Housing and Planning Bill is delivering our manifesto commitment to help turn ‘generation rent’ into ‘generation buy’. The Bill will deliver new starter homes, extend the right to buy, crack down on rogue landlords, recover abandoned premises and kick start Britain into supplying the housing stock that will allow millions of Brits to reach the goal of owning their own homes.
The Scottish National Party oppose the measures in this Bill as they do not believe in increasing home ownership but thanks to English Votes for English Laws legislation the Government was able to get its legislation through the House.
The first Conservative Government in almost 20 years has hit the ground running since the General Election in May 2015. Our Welfare Bill is now waiting to come back from the House of Lords and if passed will limit eligibility for child tax credits to two pregnancies, likewise our Trade Union Bill, that will require a 50 per cent turnout for strike action, is progressing through Parliament along with our in/out EU Referendum Bill.
It has been my long held belief that British voters should have their say on whether Britain should remain in the European Union now its institutions have extended significantly since we entered the common market.
The ‘In’ and ‘Out’ camps are now gearing up their campaigns and the period leading up to the vote will be important for people to make informed decisions.
For too long decisions on the Europe Union have been made by politicians and it is right that all voters will now have their own vote in a public election as we determine Britain’s future in Europe.