The proportion of money spent on flood defences in deprived areas has ‘reduced substantially’ in the last six years, according to a new report.
The report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) claims while the government is on track to achieve its target for better protecting 300,000 more homes from flooding by March 2021, it does not have a comprehensive way of measuring how it has managed to reduce the overall level of flood risk across England.
It also notes the proportion of funding for flood defence going to the 20% most deprived areas has ‘reduced substantially’ since 2014.
The government requires many flood schemes to be part-funded by communities, local authorities or businesses in the private sector.
And while the system includes provisions for deprived communities who may have difficulty raising this type of investment, very few of the homes better protected in 2019 were in deprived areas.
According to the report, the proportion rose from 4% in 2011, to 29% in 2014, but then declined to 8% in 2019.
Defra believes this decline is because most of the possible schemes in deprived areas have been completed, although it has not carried out any analysis to support this explanation, the report adds.
‘The Environment Agency’s performance looks good – but the target it focusses on doesn’t tell the whole story,’ said the chair of the public accounts committee, Meg Hillier.
‘Defra has largely left the agency to its own devices. It should have done more to make sure poorer areas – where more people are at risk of flooding– get a fair share of the available funding.
‘The budget for flood defences is increasing – but will still need topping up from somewhere else. Defra needs to be much clearer about what it expects to achieve with this money,’ added Ms Hillier.
A Defra spokesperson said: ‘Flooding devastates lives, livelihoods and communities, but as the NAO recognises, we have made significant progress in preparing the country and are on track to better protect 300,000 homes by March 2021.
‘We have completed many schemes that protect properties in deprived areas and over the last 10 years the Environment Agency estimate that approximately 60,000 homes in these areas have benefited from new defences. and a high rate of funding.
‘Climate change means we must redouble our efforts and over the next six years we are investing a record £5.2 billion to build 2,000 new flood and coastal defences which will better protect another 336,000 properties,’ added the spokesperson.
Photo Credit – StockSnap (Pixabay)