MP Alan Campbell column: Why was our country SO unprepared for the recent heatwave?

The recent record temperatures brought the East Coast rail line and parts of the country to a complete standstill.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 5:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th July 2022, 5:18 pm
Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell.
Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell.

The London Fire Service had its busiest day on record, and the NHS feared being overwhelmed.

Our emergency services rose to the challenge but it begs the question, why did the country seem so unprepared? Other countries regularly deal with extreme temperatures.

Ministers had to be dragged to the Commons to account for events and the Prime Minister again faced criticism for choosing to go partying rather than attend emergency meetings.

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 set up how the government should respond in emergencies.

I served on the Bill committee which created Local Resilience Forums requiring emergency services, local authorities and agencies such as the Environment Agency to have a plan and be prepared to respond.

But like much else in the public realm in the last 12 years, forums have been starved of cash and allowed to wither so when the heatwave hit there was no coordinated plan for transport, schools, the NHS or care homes.

The government reviewed the forums last year, but nothing has been done.

We need a whole system approach which includes businesses, an overhaul of local resilience forums and of COBRA, and a dedicated minister to take responsibility.

Covid showed how the country stepped up, with local volunteers playing a crucial role.

We need to harness that commitment and a government which is prepared to be active rather than missing in action, to be better prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead.