Chris Howard, who runs Mitchells and Butlers lease the Aire Bar in Leeds city centre, spoke of his frustration after he wasn’t issued with sandbags and struggled to reach council staff before the floods hit.
“We contribute over £20,000 a year in business rates to the local authority, and they have failed to provide us with a single sandbag or any assistance in flood protection. Instead we spent over £500 on Boxing Day buying sandbags.”
“It’s very frustrating to put in and put in by paying VAT, business rates, national insurance as well as all the jobs we provide and not get anything back at a time of need which could finish my business off. It seems to about the clean-up-but prevention is what’s needed.”
Howard said the pub, which is next to the River Aire, was submerged in water up to chest height and lost thousands of pounds worth of equipment. Facing a month-long closure to repair the damage, the publican said he has been forced to make some members of the team redundant.
However, Howard praised the reaction from locals and pub company Mitchells and Butlers.
“The reaction from the local community has been humbling. We’ve had people who don’t know offering us sandwiches and hot drinks, CAMRA have been fantastic and there’s great community spirit. It just shows pubs come under a lot of stick with things like Dry January (for more on the PMA’s positive January campaign for pubs click here) but this response shows how much people value pubs. Fair play, to M and B they’ve hit the ground running and phoned me directly to say it’s in no-one’s interest to see a closed pub and they’ll do all that they can to help.”
A spokesperson from Leeds City Council told the PMA: "All available and appropriate resources were deployed to deal with the floods. Working with all agencies, our priority was to protect life, restore the road network and power supplies as quickly as possible.
“Council staff have been working every day, with many giving up their holidays to deal with the floods and clear up operations. In many cases this has been alongside dedicated volunteers. It’s this can-do, positive attitude that typifies the response from the council and communities affected.
"Residents and businesses have a responsibility for protecting their own property and should make their own arrangements in case of floods – we will do everything we can to assist wherever possible but with events such as Storm Eva, our resources inevitably have to be prioritised. Our stock of sandbags are primarily to protect the road network and we will assist others if resources allow and will prioritise accordingly. During this incident, the council sourced several thousand extra sandbags. However, the best defence is to plan in advance and not rely solely on public services to protect property during flooding.”