Where was the county council when we needed it?

Volunteers arrive to help with the clean-up.
Volunteers arrive to help with the clean-up.
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Furious organisers of the major clean-up operation in Whalley fired an angry broadside at Lancashire County Council in the aftermath of the shocking floods that left 16 families homeless.

Hair salon owner Kellie Hughes, one of the main organisers of the clean-up, said: “Lancashire County Council do not appear to have done anything at all to help us when we have needed it the most.

“We feel like we have been left to fend for ourselves with one of the worst disasters to hit this village in living memory. In contrast, Ribble Valley Councl has been there 100% for the village. Whatever we have asked for they have given to us.”

In response to the criticisms, County Coun. Jenny Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “The county council has been working around the clock since Boxing Day to support communities affected by flooding, not just in Whalley but right across Lancashire.

“We worked with district councils to open five emergency rest centres for people unable to get into their homes, including one in Whalley and another in Longridge for those affected by the floods in Ribchester.

“We worked closely with the emergency services to clear roads and keep the road network moving as best we could.

“Highways officers have delivered and used hundreds of sandbags, bringing extra supplies in from around Lancashire as needed. Roads and bridges were closed wherever they were dangerous to travel on and cleaned and re-opened as soon as dangers had passed.

“We’ve also identified and contacted people who receive social care support to check they’re safe and have everything they need, as well as supporting care providers affected by the floods.

“County council staff have done a tremendous job throughout to play their part in dealing with an unprecedented situation, alongside the excellent work of colleagues from the many other agencies involved.

“The efforts of public service staff and communities alike in the face of adversity are the bright point to emerge from an extremely distressing situation - if there’s anything we can learn from our experience of recent weeks to improve our response next time then we certainly will.”

As shocked and distressed families were put up in Langho’s Foxfields Hotel, Ribble Valley Council worked with a variety of agencies, including Ribble Valley Homes and Hyndburn Homes, to find suitable accommodation for them while their homes are repaired.

As the rescue and clean up operation continued Coun. Stuart Hirst, Leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council, pledged to help every home affected. He said: “We have been sending out our electricians to make the homes affected safe and we will be also be offering the service of builders and loss adjustors as there have been reports of bogus ones going around.

“We have had someone on stand by duty round the clock since the floods happened.”

The council has also provided skips in Whalley and Ribchester for residents to dispose of flood-damaged goods.

The skips are situated in King Street, Queen Street, Woodfield View and Princess Street in Whalley and Greenside and the Ribchester Arms car park in Ribchester.

Ribble Valley Borough Council chief executive Marshal Scott said: “The floods have been devastating for many of our residents and businesses and we are working with community groups in the clear up operation.

“I would like to thank community groups, volunteers and council staff for their help with the recovery operation.

“We are working hard to cope with the aftermath of the flood and minimise disruption to services elsewhere in the borough.”

Television and radio presenter Ted Robbins came down to see the devastation as volunteers worked to clear out the wrecked homes and businessess.

June Brown, chairman of Whalley Parish Council, said: “Ted said after watching the news he couldn’t just sit at home, he had to come down and see what could be done to help. He has said he will mention us on his radio show and appeal for any help that we need.

“The help we have received from so many people as been amazing, it leaves you speechless how great they have been.”

Using Whalley Village Hall as a base for donations, supplies and a temporary base for families to get warm and dry and have a hot drink and some food, a steady flow of donations was streaming in by the minute, including a van load of Holland’s pies.

Whalley Primary headteacher Mr Richard Blackburn opened the doors of the school to provide some time out for the youngsters affected by the floods. He said: “We just wanted to do anything we could to help and offering to take care of the children while their parents sort out their properties seemed the least we could do.’’

United Utilities announced that bills for homes affected would be suspended and two emergency phone lines have been set up for residents. These are 01200 429973 and 01200 414423. The general Floodline number is 0345 988 1188.