Town hall leaders have called for flood funding to be made more transparent and devolved to local level, following a highly-critical report by a group of MPs.
Published today, the report on flood risk management by the House of Commons’ environmental audit committee finds the government is failing to protect communities, with the condition of critical flood defences ‘in decline’.
It also warns there is a ‘lack of effective long-term strategic planning’ by the government, with spending fluctuating from year to year.
The cross-party group of MPs even claimed the £700m of extra funding announced by George Osborne in April’s Budget will be allocated on a ‘political calculation’, which could lead to ‘poor decision making’ and even ‘regionally unfair outcomes’.
The report concludes the government does not know how prepared local authorities are for dealing with future floods, and whether any plans – if they exist – are fit for purpose.
‘Local authorities are not receiving the support they need to prepare for, and mitigate, the impacts of flooding,’ said committee chair, Mary Creagh.
‘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,’ she added. ‘Communities at risk deserve certainty from government.’
The Local Government Association’s environment spokesperson, Cllr Peter Box, agreed with the committee’s claim that councils need much more support from Whitehall.
‘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,’ said Cllr Box.
The president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), Rupert Clubb, said councils are also dealing with new responsibilities around surface water, ground water and drainage systems, which are presenting challenges to various local authorities.
‘With pressures felt across a whole range of local authority services, transparent, long-term funding streams would not only reduce the risk of flooding, but would also give businesses the confidence to expand and develop,’ said Mr Clubb.
‘At present this does not exist. The government also needs to step up to the climate adaptation agenda. While we support the agreement at last year’s Paris summit to cut emissions, we still have adaptation issues to tackle and historical investment levels may not be able to keep pace with the risks that a changing climate will expose.
‘The cutting of funding to the Climate Ready support service is worrying and we hope the publication of the climate change risk assessment next year will galvanise a more strategic approach to planning and investment,’ added Mr Clubb.
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the National Flood Resilience Review will be published shortly, and will deliver ‘immediate actions to better protect communities ahead of the 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,’ added the Whitehall spokesperson.
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