It's not just about increasing the amount of funding allocated. It's about whether that allocation meets needby Polly Rippon / November 18, 2019 / Leave a comment
Boris Johnson’s recent visit to the flood-hit communities of South Yorkshire highlighted the human cost of last week’s ‘biblical downpour’ as he was confronted by angry residents.
TV images of heartbroken residents wading through their living rooms, camping out in community centres, existing on donated tins of food and roads resembling rivers are becoming all too familiar as the effects of global warming take hold. Forecasters warn that the problem will only get worse in the future.
As the floodwaters begin to subside and the affected residents attempt to rebuild their shattered homes, lives and businesses, is it time for a new approach to deal with flooding?
Funding for flood defences in England was cut in 2010 after David Cameron became prime minister. It was subsequently restored after serious flooding hit many parts of the country during the winter of 2013-4 and has increased in recent years.
In 2009, the Environment Agency unveiled its long-term investment strategy for flood and coastal risk management in England. It estimated it would need a budget of £1,040m a year, plus inflation, by 2035 to maintain existing assets and deliver adequate protection for communities.
Initially, like all government departments and as part of the government’s austerity drive, the Environment Agency had its Flood Defence Grant Aid (FDGiA) budget cut from £670million in 2010-11 to £576m in 2012-13.
But following the winter storms of 2013-14, which saw extensive flooding in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall in particular, the government injected another £200m capital funding—taking the total to £802m for 2014-15.
The allocation for 2019-20 is £815m—an increase, but still short of the Environment Agency’s suggestion. As Ian Moodie, technical manager at the Association of Drainage Authorities, puts it: “We need a step-change in investment annually around flood risk management.”
There’s also the question of whether the millions of pounds of public money being allocated to flood alleviation schemes are being spent in the best way possible. As Moodie adds, “even if we had that money there are challenges around how we invest that money—including the rules set out by DEFRA about how it is spent.”
Although more funding is always welcome, experts say the issue isn’t necessarily spending levels, but whether or not spending is…