In a speech at the National Assembly for Wales, Mick Antoniw, Assembly Member for Pontypridd has summarised the devastation caused in Pontypridd and across RCT as a result of the recent floods and calls on the UK Government to provide urgent flood recovery funding.

The transcript, together with the Minister’s response can be found below.

Mick Antoniw AM: Minister, I’m going to concentrate mainly on the disasters that hit Rhondda Cynon Taf, because of the focus and concentration of the deluge, but can I first of all thank you for coming to my constituency? Can I also thank the First Minister for coming and visiting in the immediate aftermath? Can I thank Jeremy Corbyn? Can I thank Adam Price, and the Prince of Wales, who also came to visit? Because those visits are important, because they are an act of solidarity with hard-hit communities. They also uplift morale, and they show that we care and that we are listening. So, I thank all those who actually came to visit—and how well received they were by persons who were cleaning out their houses at the very time that those visits took place—and also reiterate again my thanks to not only the public sector and emergency workers, but the volunteers, many of whom are still, at this very moment, working away, helping within their communities. And a particular thanks to the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf council, Andrew Morgan, because I think it’s been almost universally accepted that the response from RCT almost immediately has been exemplary and has been outstanding and it has been an honour to work with him and his colleagues and with all those public sector workers in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

If I can make a comment also in terms of the scale of the damage, that, as is obvious to so many people, it is those—some of the communities in my constituency, it is some of those who had the least who have lost everything. And how important the grants, the contributions that have been made, the donations that have been made to a fund that myself and the MP Alex Davies-Jones made, which, within a matter of days, had achieved in the region of £30,000, and all the other funds that have been set up to do that.

I spoke with the council leader this morning about the actual scale of the damage—it’s important to get this on the record—in Rhondda Cynon Taf. There are nine bridges closed—severe damage to those bridges and they may all need replacing. The council have inspected 199 bridges; there are 32 left to inspect. There are dozens and dozens of collapsed river walls and collapsed, damaged culverts, all of which have to be dealt with. There has been the inspection of 43 category C and D coal tips. There is a considerable list being drawn up in respect of the work needed on highway inspections and highway repairs.

We have in Rhondda Cynon Taf 557 flooded homes—25 per cent of the UK total. We have 500 flood-damaged business properties, and the businesses damaged alone in one area of Treforest, where something like 90 per cent of the businesses were affected, is potentially estimated at around £100 million to £150 million. So, the guesstimate from the council—and it can only be a guesstimate at this stage—is in the region of £30 million to £40 million of damage, but I suspect it is going to be considerably more once those inspections are actually completed, and I know the council leader wanted to put on record the thanks for the support. He has had vehicles and equipment from other local authorities around Wales, and it is that community spirit across Wales that is something that I think, as a country and as a community, we can be so proud of.

Can I just say one thing also, then, in respect of the money that is actually needed? We are not asking for some extra devolution handout. We are part of the United Kingdom, we pay into the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister is the Minister of the union, and it is incumbent on any union to actually help those areas when disaster hits. What is being asked for is no more than any part of the United Kingdom—Wales, England, Scotland or Northern Ireland—could ask for and, in the past, have actually received.

Can I ask for one particular thing that I think does need to be done, and that is, firstly, to assure everybody that Pontypridd is open for business? Because those businesses are up and running, despite some of the damage they still have, and that has been a remarkable effort. Can I thank the Secretary of State for Wales in respect of the fast action in respect of the derogation in respect of the Department of Social Security?

And can I then ask one further thing, and that is: we need to specifically look at specialist advice being given to our communities in respect of the issue of insurance. There are many who have insurance, there are all sorts of games that are being played by the insurance industry—’Is it flood damage? Is it storm damage?’ or whatever. The fact of the matter is, I think this is a matter where the Association of British Insurers really need to rein in and take control of the situation, engage with Government and local government, and ensure, firstly, that those people who have insurance are properly compensated under their insurance policies. And then I reiterate everything that the First Minister has said, that is we need to look at the existing arrangements that may be available in terms of insurance and, possibly, how we may even devise and enhance a specific Welsh arrangement, to ensure that our people do not suffer. Thank you, Minister.

Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs:  Thank you, Mick. I think the statistics and the numbers that you came forward with demonstrate very clearly that RCT local authority was so severely impacted. I was going to also say I know, through my discussions with Andrew Morgan and at the summit also, how grateful he was to neighbouring local authorities for their assistance.

Just to pick up on a couple of specific points that you raise—absolutely, Pontypridd is open for business. I think it is so humbling to see the way that businesses get back there. I was in Llanrwst a week last Thursday, following storm Ciara, and the businesses there were clearing out. It was great to see the one shop that was up and running one day ahead of Valentine’s Day was the florist—she had all her flowers and her balloons outside, and I thought that was just great, to see that sort of resilience from our businesses, so I’m very happy to put that on record.

In relation to insurance, it’s a very, very important point, because I think we need to do more to promote Flood Re. I don’t think enough people are aware of it, so people who will have had flood insurance refused—even if that’s happened, Flood Re will be able to provide some cover. So, certainly, the discussions that we had with the representative from the association of insurers at the flood submit—that’s one area where I think we need to do more. So, for anybody now who is listening, the thing to do, if you don’t know about it, is ring your insurance company—the one that you’re with now—and ask them to look into that for you.