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Five million homes in England are at risk of flooding

flood uk 2014

National Audit Office warns: be prepared for more floods.

Five million homes in England are at risk of flooding and the government’s own assessment shows climate change is increasing the risk by driving more extreme weather. That’s the conclusion of The National Audit Office (NAO) report published October 5th 2014. “Every £1 spent on flood defences prevented almost £10 in damage”, the report noted. “So ad-hoc emergency spending is less good value than sustained maintenance.”

“The underlying spending on flood defences has gone down,” said NAO auditor general, Amyas Morse:

Difficult decisions about whether to continue maintaining defences in some areas or let them lapse [must be made], increasing in future both the risk of floods and the potential need for more expensive ad-hoc emergency solutions.

Alarming financial cuts

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, said: “I am deeply concerned that current levels of spending are not enough to maintain flood protection.” She said the cuts by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were ‘alarming’ and described the extra £270m as an ’emergency bailout’.

Flooding minister Dan Rogerson argued that the NAO had used the wrong numbers. ‪

“The NAO has drawn conclusions on funding based on inappropriate comparisons. We have invested £3.2bn in flood management and defences over the course of this parliament which is a real-term increase.”

The government prefers to compare the six-year period after the 2010 election with the six years before. The latter includes several low-spending years, before major floods in 2007 led to a sharp rise in spending.

Environment Agency

The NAO report praised the Environment Agency (EA), which builds and manages England’s flood defences. “In the face of increasing flood risk and pressure on defences, the EA has improved the cost effectiveness of its flood risk spending … It is achieving value for money.”

294 flood defense schemes unbuild

In February, the Guardian revealed that flood-stricken communities, including those visited by David Cameron in the Somerset Levels and Kent, had been left without planned defences following government funding cuts, as were defences in the Thames Valley. In 2012, the Guardian also revealed that 294 flood defence schemes across England had been left unbuilt due to budget cuts.

Friends of the Earth’s Guy Shrubsole said: “The NAO’s findings are a damning indictment of government neglect. The coalition is letting flood defences crumble as sea levels rise and extreme weather worsens.”

He said the government must plug the £500m hole in flood defence spending identified by its official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change.

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