Government flood funding “too reactive”, say MPs

10 Jun 16

MPs have criticised the government’s “reactive” approach to funding flood defence and called for more long-term strategic planning of spending.

The environmental audit committee yesterday warned that the government is failing to protect communities at risk of flooding as funding for defences fluctuated year-on-year.

During the last Parliament funding was initially cut and only increased after the winter 2013-14 floods, the Flooding: Cooperation Across Government report highlighted. Floods last winter were estimated to have cost councils at least £250m.

“We know that flooding is projected to get worse and occur more frequently because of climate change, so it just isn’t good enough for government to react to flooding events as they occur,” committee chair Mary Creagh said.

“Communities at risk deserve certainty from government.”

Examining the effectiveness of government planning for flooding, the committee highlighted that while there was a national policy in place to plan for flood prevention, the number of local flood plans and strategies under this was worryingly low and ministers were not supporting local authorities to develop them.

“Local authorities are not receiving the support they need to prepare for, and mitigate, the impacts of flooding,” Creagh added.

“The government needs to put money into the upkeep of existing flood defences as well as investing in new defences. Failure to do so can have terrible consequences for residents and businesses when defences fail.

“Any decline in the condition of critical flood defences represents an unacceptable risk to local communities in flood prone areas. We urge the government to go beyond its current target and aim to have virtually all its critical assets meeting the Environment Agency's required condition by 2019."

Responding to the report, Local Government Association environment spokesman Peter Box agreed with the committee that councils need to be better supported by government.

“New measures that could make a positive difference include devolving new flood defence funding to local areas, further incentives for private sector investment in flood defences and mandatory flood-proof requirements for new homes and offices,” he said.

Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the government was investing £2.3bn in flood defences, with an extra £700m announced in the Budget, to better protect more than 300,000 properties.

“Our six-year capital investment programme for flood defences will bring an end to year-on-year fluctuations in spending so communities can have certainty in future funding.

“Our National Flood Resilience Review will be published shortly, delivering immediate actions to better protect communities ahead of this winter.

“This will be followed by our 25-year environment plan later this year setting out a new approach to managing our rivers across whole catchments, keeping homes, businesses and infrastructure safer from flooding.”

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