'WE DID CUT COSTS ON GULLY CLEANING'

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08:00 - 02 August 2007

City council spending on gully maintenance was cut before the floods hit Hull, an inquiry into the disaster has heard.

The cuts were first revealed by the Mail two days after the June 25 downpour left thousands of homes in the city under water.

Now a senior council officer has confirmed that spending on gully maintenance was reduced in recent years.

Giving evidence to the independent review body set up to look into the floods, the city council's head of streetscene services Trish Dalby said: "There has been a reduction in the budget for gully maintenance, like there has been in many budgets across the council.

"My understanding is that it happened about three years ago."

She was not asked to give a detailed breakdown of the budget cuts, but the Mail understands it has been effectively halved compared with a few years ago.

Mrs Dalby said she had ordered an immediate review of the council's cleaning and maintenance programme for gullies in the wake of the floods.

"We looked at when gullies were last cleaned and what emerged was quite a confusing picture.

"Some had been cleaned only a few months before the floods and yet still ended up being submerged, while others had not been cleaned at the time when they should have been cleaned."

She said gully repairs were only triggered by reports of blockages.

"If we get a report of a gully that has a problem we investigate it and carry out a repair if that is what is needed, but if we do not get a report, the assumption is the gully is fine," she said.

Mrs Dalby said the many privately owned tenfoots across Hull had flooded because of blocked gullies.

However, she said the responsibility for these gullies rested with the nearby householders.

"We normally provide a service to clean private gullies at a charge but during the flooding we suspended this charge," she said.

She said the council also often encountered problems trying to get access to many gullies because of parked vehicles.

Mrs Dalby said the council was now working with the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water to accurately map every gully, drain and open watercourse in the city.

"As far as we are aware, this exercise has never been done before in such a level of detail. It should also establish who is responsible for what."

She said the council's own emergency procedures had been "tested to the full" during the floods.

She said: "The systems worked, but I think we need to see more detail in some of the emergency plans we have.

"One issue that has become apparent is some of our staff need more training in emergency procedures.

"A lot of people at the council are new to their roles and will require more training.

"In future, I also think we need to be more proactive with things such as road closures.

"We couldn't get out to some areas and didn't realise the problems being caused by some irresponsible drivers causing waves to flood into properties."

a.young@mailnewsmedia.co.uk

Editors Note:  It appears that the authorities do not even know the location of their own drains and watercourse!