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ABI urges UK government to ‘take the politics out’ of funding flood protection

The only option to protect homes and businesses from the threat of flooding is to remove the government’s political agenda from funding defences, according to the property policy adviser at the Association of British Insurers (ABI).


10 JUNE 2016 | CINTIA CHEONG

Flooding in UK © iStock
The EAC said the goverment lacked long-term strategic planning to manage flood risk. © iStock


Laura Hughes’ comments followed findings from a report published by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). 

Committee MPs criticised the government’s ‘reactive’ approach to flood protection, saying it lacked long-term strategic planning to manage the risk.

In March, chancellor George Osborne announced plans to raise £700m to boost flood defences and resilience by increasing the insurance premium tax to 10%, after a series of storms took place in December. 

Hughes said: “Investment should not be a ‘sticking plaster’ in an emergency situation.”

The EAC found that funding fluctuates year-on-year. During the last parliament funding was initially cut and only increased after a series of floods took place in the winter of 2013-14.

They also revealed the condition of critical flood defences was in decline due to cuts in maintaining them. As a result the number of defences which met the Environment Agency's required condition also fell. 

Chair of the committee Mary Creagh said this represented an “unacceptable risk” to local communities in flood prone areas and that the government needed to put money into the upkeep of existing defences as well as investing in new ones.

“Failure to do so can have terrible consequences for residents and businesses when defences fail,” she said.

“We urge the government to go beyond its current target and aim to have virtually all its critical assets meeting the Environment Agency's required condition by 2019."

On planning, the MPs argued while there was a national policy in place the number of local plans and strategies was “worryingly low” and that local authorities were not receiving the support they needed to prepare for, and mitigate, the impacts of flooding.

On resilience, the committee slammed the government for lacking transparency in publishing the results of past reviews or tracking in an open way how it had implemented them. The EAC recommended the current National Flood Resilience Review “would be a good place to start” for an action plan.

The review was launched following Storm Desmond last December and it is due to be published.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was undertaking a six-year capital investment programme, which would end year-on-year fluctuations in spending.

The department added the National Flood Resilience Review would bring “immediate actions” to better protect communities ahead of this winter.

A spokeswoman said: “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.

“We continue to invest record amounts to protect the nation against the threat of flooding – £2.3bn in flood defences, with an extra £700m announced in the Budget, to better protect more than 300,000 properties.”