At the outset of the coalition Government one of the comments that was regularly rolled by some of the new Ministers, was that the Labour Government had failed to mend the roof whilst the sun was shining. This was used in conjunction with the argument that the last Government was to blame for the catastrophic failure in our national finances, and this Government would sort them out. Since 2010 we have seen substantial manpower reductions in the regular Army, The Police, Fire and Rescue Services, Environment Agency and Local Government. As one other blogger who regularly writes an excellent blog has written today, the Government also removed a significant level of emergency planning capability at the Regional level when they closed the Regional Government Offices.
The challenge for the Government is that switching on systems that have been dismantled takes time, even if there is the knowledge and skill to do so. That money is now apparently no object based on the statements from David Cameron is irrelevant, even more so now that Patrick McLoughlin has disputed the Cameron version of events. The argument that Puffles makes in his blog is that with the Regional Offices still in place, the Government may well have been much better placed to understand the need for a response to the disaster in the South West than what we have seen in the last 24 hours from No 10, as welcome as this is.
Due to the flip flop nature of Political debate and the factors that have been judged to win previous elections for unpopular Governments, this offer of “all the money you need” is either an act of compassion or a calculated political gesture depending on how such things are viewed. That of course explains why Messrs Clegg, Miliband and Farage have been donning their wellies to be seen to be as in touch!! as the Prime Minister, with an election no more than 3 months away. What is clear is that our national resilience is dependent on all of the blue light and environmental services being resourced for the rain as well as the sunshine. Money is part of the solution and on that subject, and a week or two away from the point when Councils set their Council Tax, perhaps Dave should overrule Erics 1.99% cap on these taxes before a referendum is needed. It is clear from the comments I have heard, that some Councils would have set higher rates if this barrier was not in place. This cap impacts not only on Local Government including the Fire and Rescue services but also the precept for Policing. The cost of local referenda as Brighton & Hove are discovering could be a significant amount of money. Eric has criticised the advice he has been given, perhaps it is time to allow local people to pay for better advice and services if they judge this to be the right course of action. The local Councillors will be rewarded or punished at the next election if they cannot find alternative ways of getting the consent from their residents now. It is patronising of a Government Minister who is so clearly compromised over the handling of the floods to still determine from the Centre how much Councils can charge for their services, particularly whilst the rain is falling.