MPs want rise in flood funding

3rd July 2014


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Author

Donald McArthur

The government must increase funding for critical maintenance of flood defences if it is to avoid a repeat of the damage to homes and businesses caused by last winter's floods, MPs have warned.

In a report on the floods that affected large parts of England in 2013–14, the environment, food and rural affairs committee called for fully funded plans to address the backlog of dredging and watercourse maintenance, as well as to maintain manmade flood defences.

The committee received evidence on dredging and concluded that it can be beneficial in certain circumstances, and as part of a portfolio of measures. It warned, however, that dredging should not be seen as an all-purpose solution and that, where appropriate, the benefits need to be sustained through routine maintenance.

Committee chair Anne McIntosh said regular work to dredge and keep rivers clear is “exactly what gets squeezed out when budgets are tight” and asked the government to recognise the importance of maintenance and put it on equal footing with building new defences. The report also highlighted the importance of including local knowledge in flood prevention and mitigation planning.

MPs supported the devolution of maintenance activity to internal drainage boards and to local landowners where possible. Turning to funding cuts for the Environment Agency, the committee said it was essential that these do not lead to unintended consequences where money is redirected to one operational area to the detriment of another. It also called for reassurance from Defra that frontline flood jobs at the agency would not be cut.

The committee identified the current split between capital and revenue budgets as a major barrier to targeting funding in line with local priorities, advising that adopting a total expenditure approach to funding would allow more flexibility.


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