Monday, 16 July 2007

'The Forgotten City'

So why was Hull 'forgotten' during the floods?

Though not forgotten by the Government or the three Labour MPs (who kept ministers fully briefed about the unfurling drama) it's fair to say the media missed out.

Although we suffered the most, the media demanded a watery backdrop for their lives, pre-records and photos.

Rolling news now defines which locations become the story. Toll Bar was still flooded days the initial delugue so it enabled the BBC and ITV to wade around in galoshers and commandeer dinghies.

Unfortunately, Hull lost its water too quickly. But that didn't mean Government wasn't aware of the problem and the extent of Hull's suffering.

But the Lib Dems decided to turn it to their political advantage. Lib Dem leader Carl Minns used London-based ING Media (a PR firm that promotes Walt Disney) to spin the line that 17,000 houses had been affected and that the council would need £350 million.

This 'Forgotten City' line and the inflated figures were swallowed hook, line and sinker by the media and used as stick to beat the Government. Minns stoked it up by saying MPs weren't doing enough and were working against the council by 'playing it down.'

These fluctuating figures - one minute £350 million, then £200m - looked like we were just making it up as we were going along.

Since then, Minns has had to admit that the damage figure is closer to £131 million and that streets with 16,000 properties were effected. A crucial difference.

You might not think that matters - at least Hull's story was told. But the inflated figures of damage could lead to a drop in house prices across Hull and drive up insurance premiums for hard-working families.

The fact is that one house affected was one too much. What we need to do now is to work together - the Lib Dems, the Labour group, local MPs, Government and the city - to ensure we secure the right funding and see what lessons can learn to ensure this doesn't happen again.

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