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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Kent County Council admits communication failings as thousands were without electricity or flooded at Christmas

31 December 2013
by KentOnline reporter

A Kent council says it is proud of the way it handled the aftermath of the floods.... but admits staff could have communicated better.

Hundreds of homes were flooded in and around Yalding, Maidstone and the River Medway, and thousands were left without power for days.

Prime minister David Cameron visited Kent, as councils, the fire service and other rescuers battled to restore power and pump out homes.

The junction of Barker Road and Tonbridge Road

The flooded junction of Barker Road and Tonbridge Road in Maidstone

But Mike Hill, cabinet member for community services at KCC, said there were lessons to be learned.

He said: “It has been a very difficult few days.

"It could not have come at a worse time of the year quite honestly - with Christmas Day and Boxing Day the two principal days and clearly it was very difficult to get a response. 

“I’m very proud of the way people responded.

Maidstone looking gloomy as floods hit the town centre. Picture George Haswell

Gloomy skies as floods hit. File picture: George Haswell

"We’ve had continual presence from Kent County Council both here and also out in the affected areas and we’ve provided as far as we possibly could services to alleviate the problems people are suffering.

“We can’t stop the rain coming down, and we can’t, in a couple of days' time, produce new flood defences, but we can alleviate the hardship they cause and we’ve certainly done that to the very best of our ability and I’m very proud of what we achieved."

He said the council had a "robust" emergency plan, which had been practised many times.

But, he added: “There are lessons to be learned. Nothing is perfect but I think it was very good.

David Cameron meets Yalding villagers during a visit to flood-hit sites

David Cameron meets Yalding villagers during a visit to flood-hit sites

"The one lesson I took back is we had difficulties in communicating with people over these few days, principally because of Christmas and Boxing Day, people were not accessing their normal information systems.

"But also the power outages caused significant difficulty in people actually hearing.

“We’ll have to look again at how in these sort of circumstances we have a robust communication system which takes account of all those difficulties and make sure people as far as possible are given the information they need."

He said the "gaping hole" was the lack of sufficient flood defences for that bit of the Medway Valley.


Related story

Kent has wettest day in 20 years... and it wasn't in December!


He said: "We’ve been saying this to government for years, we do need more investment to provide better flood defences for the valley. 

“We’ve got to find some way of stopping Yalding being continually inundated every few years when we have another flood.

"This is all to do with the government response in producing a decent flood protection system.”

He said the floods over Christmas were a "wake-up call".

Police closed the Maidstone Bridge on Christmas Day

Police closed the Maidstone Bridge on Christmas Day

He said: "We will be going back now to government and all our other agencies and saying ‘we mustn’t have this continually happening, what can we do to produce a decent flood defence system to protect Yalding in the future?' "

According to Kent County Council's Flood Response Plan, due to be updated in February next year, police have a procedure for door knocking which can be used in any emergency situation.

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments belowThat includes flooding, with the help of KCC Community Wardens for high risk properties.

The wardens can also help with making people aware of severe weather warnings.  

KCC spokesman Mike Sherburn said door knocking had taken place during the floods.

The comments come as Kent faces new weather threats.

A weather warning has been issued for heavy rain tomorrow.

Forecasters say up to 40mm of rain could fall on New Year's Day over some of the region's south-facing coasts.

Wind could also gust to 50 to 60mph, with warnings given of flooding.

Click here for more news from Maidstone.

Click here for more news from around the county.

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