“Mixed and misinformation” contributed to delays assisting with flooding relief work, say council officers

The now-closed emergency flooding hub in Reeth Memorial Hall. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Richmondshire District Council says “mixed and misinformation” contributed to delays aiding the community-led relief effort in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale following last month’s flooding.

In the aftermath of the flooding on July 30, local residents opened an emergency hub at Reeth Memorial Hall.

Residents carried out numerous tasks from the hub, including distributing food to those whose homes had been flooded, trying to arrange emergency accommodation for people, feeding volunteers, checking on vulnerable people, liaising with GPs to ensure people in hard to reach areas had their medication, and coordinating donations of food and clothing.

However, it was not until Friday when staff from Richmondshire District Council arrived to help coordinate the relief effort.

North Yorkshire County Council says members of its Major Incident Response Team also arrived in the hall on Friday, although volunteers say it was Saturday before they arrived.

The response team included volunteers from Team Rubicon, a group made up of mainly ex-forces professional who are trained in disaster response, as well as members of the Ready for Anything group, a team of volunteers former after the Boxing Day floods in 2015 by City of York Council.

The delays were criticised by volunteers leading the relief effort at the time, although efforts since those first few days to help the communities recover from the flooding have been welcomed.

Richmondshire Today asked Richmondshire District Council about the delayed in posting staff to help the relief effort at the hall.

A council spokesperson said: “As information on the incident was being received we prioritised need based on that – we had people in the Dales from early Wednesday reacting to the incident.

“There was a good deal of mixed and misinformation in the early stage.

“Richmondshire took over the recovery phase at 3.30pm on July 31 and as soon as we found out about the Reeth Community Hub officers were sent out to help staff it.”

Asked about what lessons the authority had learnt following the incident, the spokesperson added: “After all major incidents there are lots of lessons learned, but we are not in a position to analyse them yet as we are still dealing with an on going recovery phase – once that is completed there will be a wash up meeting with all the parties to discuss what we did well / not so well and what we can learn from the incident.

“Fortunately these incidents of flash flooding are rare and although there are plans in place to mobilise resources each incident is different.

“Also this occurred when some council officers were away on annual leave which stretched resources.”

Richmondshire Today also contacted North Yorkshire County Council about the its response in the immediate aftermath of the floods.

A spokesperson for the county council said: “The Resilience and Emergency Team and MIRT were sent to Leyburn and Langthwaite on Thursday at the request of Richmondshire District Council who lead on recovery and were in the memorial hall in Reeth from Friday.

“This is documented in the response log.”

It has also emerged that in the wake of the flooding a ‘rest centre’ was identified at Richmond School following the flooding, as well as a pub in Leyburn, despite roads between Richmond and the worst affected areas in Swaledale being closed due to flooding damage.

The county council spokesperson said: “There is a well-established multi-agency response via the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, to any incident of this nature and this operated from Tuesday evening when it became evident that some areas had suffered impact from the flash floods.

“Rest centres were immediately identified in Richmond School (which was put on standby) and a public house in Leyburn.

“A tried and tested protocol is followed for contacting vulnerable people.

“Decisions are taken via the NYLRF in a shared decision making model which is best practice.

“Communication was passed down to officers on the ground across all the agencies involved. At this stage the response was coordinated by the police.”