Defra savings must not undermine flood defences, say MPs

Department "must prioritise front-line work like flood protection" as it reduces its resource spending, environment committee says

By Josh May

15 Dec 2015

A committee of MPs has warned that the government may not be able to come up with the cash to improve the UK's flood defences. 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to spend £2.3bn on flood defences over the course of the parliament.

But that figure relies on £600m of “external contributions”, of which only £250m has already been secured and only £61m has come from the private sector, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said in a report published today.

Rural payments: "childish" tensions between GDS and Defra laid bare at committee hearing
Climate of uncertainty: What's next for Decc and Defra?

It comes just over a week after Storm Desmond resulted in hundreds of homes being evacuated in the north-west of England because of flooding. 

“We are pleased that the Government is committed to a £2.3bn programme for flood defences over this parliament,” said committee chairman and Conservative MP Neil Parish.

“But this relies heavily on investment from the private sector, which has not yet been guaranteed.”

The MPs are also urging the government to set out a “clear strategy” to ensure that cuts to Defra’s budget do not have knock-on consequences for flood protections.

The recent spending review said Defra was going to face reductions worth 25% to its administrative budget and 15% to its overall resource budget.

“Savings have to be made, but the department must prioritise front-line work like flood protection,” Parish said.

“We have asked the secretary of state for a clear strategy outlining the impact of Spending Review cuts on vital services. We welcome Defra’s commitment to a six-year capital flood defence programme and its pledge to protect maintenance funding for activities such as river dredging.

“This is prudent investment since flood damage may cost more to repair than to prevent. But the increasing risk of more extreme flood events will stretch these budgets thinly.”

Read the most recent articles written by Josh May - Think tank calls for new cross-departmental drive to boost social mobility

Share this page