Flood defences throughout Yorkshire could be put under increasing pressure as the Environment Agency faces another wave of multi-million-pound cuts. In a highly unusual move, the Government is considering imposing the latest round of cuts on budgets that are already in place for the existing financial year.

An unexpected financial burden caused by the avian flu threat and the farming subsidy payment debacle are thought to be main driving forces behind the cuts being considered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It emerged last week that the Rural Payments Agency, responsible for huge delays in the processing of 120,000 claims under the new £1.6bn farm subsidy scheme, is set to cost taxpayers £200m next year. The Yorkshire Post has now learnt that the chairman of the Yorkshire Regional Flood Defence Committee, Jeremy Walker, met Defra Ministers this month when details emerged about the Environment Agency's looming financial crisis.

The cuts will be imposed nationally, and it is understood the figure could be as high as £2m in Yorkshire. While specific details of savings have yet to be finalised, the Environment Agency has been told cuts will have to be made to its revenue expenditure, which funds the maintenance of flood defences as well as staffing and everyday running costs.

The agency was forced earlier this year to postpone urgent flood prevention projects because of a lack of Government funding.


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