Politicians descended on South Yorkshire last month when flooding left many people homeless and businesses were forced to close. Andrew Gordon asks whether their response will affect how Sheffielders vote.
Flooding caused hardship again for the people of South Yorkshire when a month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours.
Politicians on the campaign trail came for photo calls with those hardest hit, but Coun Mark Jones, Sheffield council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change, said he was unsure if measures taken by the Labour-run council on flood protection since 2007 would affect voting.
“I honestly do not know how the resilience of Sheffield’s flood contingency measures will affect voting intentions. I’m not sure that would cause people to vote for Labour nationally.
“I have heard people say that they were relieved that the flood defences held.The motivations of Sheffield City Council to protect our city is not driven by a desire to favour the electorate. It is simply the right thing to do.”
The sheer amount of rainfall in Sheffield was incredible, 64mm of rain fell, causing mass disruptions to everyone throughout the city, with many businesses closing during the storm and all travel networks being disrupted.
Sheffield teacher Ross Gregory got off the bus he was on and braved the weather on his commute home from work because it was stuck in traffic. Mr Gregory, a teacher at Ballifield Primary School, described his actions as necessary.
He said: “The traffic was that bad on the Wicker that the bus just wasn’t moving and I had to make my next bus to get home, so I decided to walk up into town.
“The flooding from the River Don was crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Financially, however, this recent bout of flooding in Sheffield is expected to cost less than last time the city was badly struck by flooding, in 2007, which has been estimated to have cost up to £2bn across the region.
This is largely as a result of the huge flood defences put in place in the aftermath of the 2007 floods. Four miles of defences have been put in place on the River Don, running from the Wicker out to the M1 on the outskirts of the city.
Sheffield council leader Julie Dore, has previously said she was satisfied with the work done. She said: “I am delighted to see we have fulfilled our promise to strengthen our defences against floods.”
The success of these flood defences was rather impressive and could well help to keep the current MPs in place amid concerns from locals that flooding is only going to become worse and more frequent. On the other hand, these flood defences might have worked for now, but only just, as water seeped over the top of flood defences near Meadowhall.
Coun Jones described it as “equivalent to the 2007 floods” and that there was “overtopping of the flood defences” but insisted that this wasn’t significant because they were not breached.
“Without these defences the impact would have been significantly worse.”
The climate crisis is an important topic in British, and global politics, and could sway some voters.
‘The climate crisis will affect voting’
Keylink Limited, a chocolate business based in Ecclesfield, had to close up and send staff home when a nearby river threatened to burst its banks.
Sandbags were used to protect goods in the warehouse as the weather worsened.
General manager Julie Davy described how the bad weather affected trade, and why she believes climate change can’t be ignored by politicians.
“The floods were detrimental to our business as we had to close early to make sure our staff could get home safe.
“Trade could not continue as usual which meant that we missed out on profits. For businesses this is a high priority and with the effects of climate change only expected to worsen we need a government who are going to take these issues seriously.”
Keylink is located right next to the Blackburn Brook in which the water levels rose drastically.
“We contacted the environmental agency mid-afternoon who advised us that the river would most likely burst its banks, so we made the decision to send our staff home as a result of this.
“We put sandbags down in the warehouse as a precaution and had to lift produce which was stored lower down up to higher ground just in case the water got in. This then took a couple of days to tidy and rearrange the warehouse back into working order once everybody had returned to work, disrupting the company further.”
Julie believes that the flooding could have a massive effect on how the city will vote on today.
“This (weather) is only going to become more of an issue, and it could have a real effect on how people vote, especially within Sheffield.
“In areas like Ecclesfield people may be looking to see wich candidates are proposing to protect the area from flooding like this in the future. Parties who are promising to be proactive towards environmental issues could definitely receive more votes off the back of events like this.”