It is in the worst of circumstances that we see the best of our public services.
We have great sympathy for the people of Cumbria and Lancashire who have been affected by Storm Desmond. It was very sad to see people in our region struggling in vain to protect their homes from the rising flood waters.
It is in the worst of circumstances that we see the best of our public services, and it was heartening to see the role played by so many people making great efforts to keep people safe. Environment Agency staff working round the clock, fire services from all over the country mobilised to rescue people trapped in their homes, Electricity North West staff working to restore power supplies, council staff working to house people who had been displaced and re-open roads, health staff caring for the injured, to name but some.
It is in times of crisis that we all realise our individual vulnerability and our reliance on each other. We all need properly-funded, resilient public services and infrastructure. The great worry at this time of austerity is that our public services are becoming less resilient to these sorts of events. Years of funding cuts are taking their toll and our public services are no longer designed to have the capacity to cope easily with major incidents. Moreover, greater involvement of the private sector and contractual relationships can make it harder to have a culture where meeting human need can be put first.
The other great worry is that we may be entering a period of more frequent climate change-related weather events. We will be looking closely for the final outcome of the international talks in Paris, because we need to know we are doing what we can to stop these terrible events – in the UK and around the world.
If you are a UNISON member who has been affected by the floods, there is information available here.