Belfast Telegraph

Stormont flood crisis meeting is a wash out

By Noel McAdam

A Stormont committee due to come back from the Assembly’s summer recess to tackle the recent flooding crisis is not to meet after all, it was confirmed last night.

The regional development committee had announced plans to quiz minister Danny Kennedy and his officials by Wednesday.

But Stormont officials have confirmed no meeting is to take place this week, and no other date has yet been scheduled.

No reason has been given for the failure to hold the meeting.

Angry committee member Stewart Dickson said the failure to hold it was “unacceptable”.

“The weather at the moment is totally unpredictable and we could have further flooding instances even before this committee was due to meet,” he said.

Mr Dickson said the issue was a “cross cutting” issue including the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Rivers Agency, and he had hoped to elicit details of contacts between the various arms of Government.

The East Antrim MLA said it was disappointing that a scrutiny committee could announce its plans to return from the summer break — and then fail to do so.

But an Assembly spokesperson said it was still possible the committee will hold the special meeting later in the summer before Stormont returns in September.

MLAs have previously accused Government departments and agencies of “systemic failure” involving a lack of co-ordination which heightened misery for thousands of households.

MLAs suggested an immediate sum of at least £30m must be found to tackle infrastructure deficiencies in the short-term, but in response so far the Executive is to fast-track £10m worth of already-announced schemes.

During the last deluge at the end of last month the Fire and Rescue Service dealt with more than 700 flood-related call-outs in greater Belfast.

But there was also serious flooding in Cushendall, Armagh and Holywood in north Down.

A major upgrade is planned for the Flooding Incident Line call centre to handle more calls.

The Executive’s ‘trouble-shooting’ team, the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit (PEDU), is to carry out “a thorough review of the response to recent flooding”.

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