AS we continue to deal with the aftermath of the catastrophic floods which hit Rochdale, Littleborough and Milnrow on Boxing Day, my focus remains the ongoing clean-up operation and pressuring the Government to act so disasters like this never happen again.
There must now be a debate in the House of Commons on this issue, and I have a strong message for David Cameron and his Government which has let the people of Rochdale down so badly.
Government cuts have reduced the Environment Agency to a remote and toothless organisation which has spectacularly failed towns and cities across the North of England.
Any number of Rochdale residents, with a lifetime of local knowledge and experience, could have told Government officials that flooding of this scale was likely to happen.
If flooding like this had hit London or the South East, the lack of adequate flood defences would be a national scandal. Sadly, as we have seen all too often, many in our community feel they have been left to fend for themselves.
As alarming as it was to see so many businesses and homes damaged by flood water, this has also been a week of positive news stories for our town. I have never been more proud to represent Rochdale as I have been in recent days. At a time of immense adversity, volunteers of all ages have pitched in to help those worse affected.
Rochdale Council has also done an incredible job in recent days. The council’s swift and efficient response to the flooding is all the more remarkable when we consider how badly its resources have been hit by Government cuts.
But the Prime Minister cannot continue to rely on compassionate volunteers and hard working council staff. He must act now to show that Rochdale residents are not an afterthought in Government.
I would like to take this opportunity to personally apologise to those who felt I misjudged my immediate response to the floods and reassure my constituents that I have redoubled my efforts to make sure our town gets the help it needs to get back on its feet.