Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/499/3068
Thousands march in Tewkesbury
THOUSANDS OF flood victims in Tewkesbury, the epicentre of Gloucestershire's mini-Katrina, joined last week's march called by the town council. Tewkesbury council now oppose building more homes on flood plains, given the green light in last month's government Green Paper.
The council's recent review of greenbelt land had, however, left out an area previously included. Coincidentally, this was where developers wanted to build hundreds of houses. The council called this "an honest mistake." But in June and July the area was flooded.
Marcher Barbara Reeve said: "It's building on flood plains that's done for us. Most people in our road now live in caravans outside their house, because you can't leave your property (it may be looted). The council are useless. Nothing has happened after a month."
Lisa Hughes commented: "It's been complete devastation, an emergency plan should have been made so we know what to do." Assessors from insurance companies arrive at one house then weeks later come to a different house on the same street. The council collecting furniture does the same. Nothing is planned.
The Socialist Party stall on the demo was inundated with people wanting to sign our petition calling on Severn Trent Water to pay compensation to the 140,000 people who went without drinking water for two weeks.
The water treatment works was built on the edge of a flood plain and had inadequate flood defences, yet Severn Trent had no contingency plan. During the flooding disaster, they announced £300 million profits with shareholders given a special payment of £575 million.
The day after they declared water again fit to drink, a loophole was found claiming the government compensation scheme did not apply. They offered £3.5 million towards disaster costs, but also announced water bills were increasing. No wonder people agreed the water companies should be renationalised.
Many Gloucestershire people face despair: 5,000 homes were damaged leaving families in hotels, rented accommodation or living with friends and relatives, while their possessions lie in skips around the county. Landslips ripped up roads, sewage contamination led to the risk of disease. Schools, youth centres, shops and other facilities were wrecked.
Tina Spiers from Mount Priory Action Group has been flooded three times in 18 months. She summed up her feelings: "Disorientated, depressed and stressed and I can't see anything getting better. I'm having to hand-wash our clothes and dry them with the dehumidifier."
Ordinary people poured £600,000 into a fund launched by the local media. But the government offered the county only £2.5 million for clear-up operations. Gordon Brown talks of £46 million nationally, yet repairs in Gloucestershire alone are estimated at £55 million.
Schools are offered £586,350 but just the insurance excess on damaged school buildings is £600,000. Brown praised emergency services, which worked relentlessly, but the government wants to close Gloucester's £6.3 million emergency control centre.
Brown told the local paper he wants "to make clear Britain is still open for business." It's clear where his priorities lie, while we suffer from a legacy of cuts and privatisation.
- Grants to be given to all affected to cover costs of repairs.
- Billionaires to pay a 'windfall' tax to cover the cost.
- Massive public investment in flood defences.
- Re-nationalise water companies under democratic working-class control.
- No profiteering from the crisis.
In The Socialist 24 August 2007:
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news