The scale of the current challenge facing local authorities is immense. Between 2010 and 2015, government funding dropped by 40% and the government recently announced further cuts to authorities in England of 6.7% between 2016 and 2020.
This drastic reduction in funding means our members are having to make some tough decisions, and the reality is that environmental services is just one of a number of areas that will be have to be trimmed even further.
But this leaves us with a paradox because of how important the environment is in supporting economic growth; a 2011 study by environmental data consultants, Trucost, found that environmental degradation costs the global economy $6.6tn per year which, in 2008, was about 11% of the world’s GDP.
This is where the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) can add value. Our environment group works to formulate strategy, share expertise and find solutions that help our members meet their responsibilities at the same time as saving money. We also work to influence central government and the commercial, voluntary and charity sectors as well as our own local authorities to move the environment further towards the top of their agendas.
One of our priority areas is flood and water management which impacts hugely on our communities and economic growth, not only through huge recovery and resilience costs but also by compromising existing economic activity, reducing investment confidence, increasing insurance costs and placing restrictions on residential and commercial development.
In terms of the future availability of water we need to prepare for a changing climate and the likelihood of long dry summers and intense periods of flooding. All this needs to be considered against a backdrop of further growth and a desire to have a plentiful supply of water for industry, housing and tourism.
By bringing flood risk management and water provision together under one overarching strategy, we are developing a more integrated, forward-looking approach that will, we hope, increase water provision through additional storage and optimise water use and reuse.
To achieve sustainable growth, we need the support of all the relevant agencies such as local enterprise partnerships, the Environment Agency, internal drainage boards, local nature partnerships, Natural England, Historic England, NFU and water and sewage companies. Together, we need to make sure the environment is embedded throughout all policy areas so that it does not end up as an afterthought in the current over-stretched economic climate.