WEST Berkshire residents who have been affected by flooding will be “shocked and disappointed” that the council has approved a £200,000 reduction to its drainage maintenance budget.
That was the view of the opposition leader Lee Dillon (Lib Dem) as he accused the district council of “letting people down”.
Mr Dillon, a ward member for Thatcham North, was out delivering sandbags to residents whose properties were flooded in 2007 and has lobbied the Environment Agency to do more to help.
At last week’s budget meeting, he said: “A report states that the maintenance of gullies was a contributing factor to the major floods in 2007.
“If the drains were fully maintained, they would have been able to carry away the water at a better rate and get it back into the river and canal network.”
A furious Mr Dillon added: “There is a huge difference between having five inches of water in your house and having four foot of water in your house, like some of my residents have, in terms of how quick you can get back in your property and the disruption that causes to peoples lives.
“I myself lived out of my property for six months, so I know as well as anybody in this chamber the impact that flooding can have.
“To say that we will look at new ways to make sure we are maintaining our drains – we don’t maintain our drains properly now.
“I was only walking past North Henwick a few day ago and it is all blocked up there as well.
“We are not doing it now with the money, so I’m sure as hell confident we won’t be doing it when we cut £200,000 from the budget.
“I think the residents, particularly in Thatcham, around Shaw and Cold Ash, and around Pangbourne by the river, will be absolutely shocked and disappointed that they are being let down by the council in one of our basic premises which is to protect property and protect life.”
Jeanette Clifford, the council’s executive member for highways and transport, responded: “Our council can, and will, continue to look after the highways and drainage system in a different way.
“I understand the anxiety and know it is a matter of great concern to residents, particularly in Thatcham, and I respect that.
“But it is not the drainage system that will protect their property, it is the huge programme of flood alleviation schemes we are investing in that will.
“We could not take this matter more seriously, but savings have to be made. We think it is a difficult choice, but the right choice.”