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National Audit Office issues report into strategic flood risk management in England

A new report by the UK National Audit Office has looked at the current state of strategic flood risk management in England.

The report says that, in the face of increasing flood risk in England and pressure on defences, the Environment Agency has improved the cost effectiveness and prioritization of its flood risk spending. However, Defra and the Agency have limited resources and current spending is insufficient to meet many of the maintenance needs the Agency has identified for its flood defences.

In the areas where maintenance of flood defences has been given a lower priority – typically, where there are few homes – this will increase the danger of deterioration of defences, thereby increasing flood risk.

The government made an extra £270 million available following the winter storms in 2013. This included an additional £35 million for asset maintenance in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. In cash terms, this has restored maintenance funding to 2010-11 levels. However, this represents a real terms decrease of 6 percent between 2010-11 and 2014-15. Excluding the one-off funding of £200 million provided following the winter floods, total funding decreased in real terms by 10 percent in the same period. Sustaining the current standard of flood protection is challenging in this context, especially as climate change increases the load on flood defences.

Read the report.

Following the publication of the Strategic Flood Risk Management report, Aidan Kerr, assistant director of property at the Association of British Insurers issued the following comment:

“The NAO’s findings show that in order for the Government to better protect UK households and businesses from flooding, they need to increase investment in flood defences, maintenance and risk management in urban areas to keep pace with climate change.

“The most effective way to protect against flooding from rivers and the sea is with well-maintained defences, cuts in funding to look after them significantly undermines their effectiveness in protecting millions of people from flooding.

"To better protect the UK against the effects of our changing climate, the Government needs to commit to funding the £500m shortfall between current spending on flood defences and what is needed, as identified by the Committee on Climate Change, and to commit to long term increases in funding for flood risk management with a focus on those areas with the highest chance of flooding.”

The UK government also issued a response to the report: this can be read here.

•Date: 6th November 2014 • UK •Type: Article • Topic: Critical infrastructure protection

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