'Insufficient funding' leaves 5 million properties at flood risk
With winter fast approaching, the UK Environment Agency has been warned that its current spending and resources are insufficient to deal with potential floods.
A report released today (5 November) by the independent National Audit Office (NAO) found that although the Agency has improved the cost-effectiveness of its flood defence spending, its budget is still too small and there are many areas with increasing flood risk.
Excluding the one-off emergency funding of £200m following the winter floods, total funding has decreased in real terms by 10% between 2010 and 2014.
"Sustaining the current standard of flood protection is challenging in this context, especially as climate change increases the load on flood defences," reads the NAO report.
Head of the National Audit Office Amyas Morse explained: "Against a background of tight resources, the Agency has improved how it prioritizes its spending, including on the maintenance of flood defences. On this measure the Agency is achieving value for money.
"However, if we set aside the emergency spending in response to last year's floods, and give due credit for efficiency improvements, the underlying spending on flood defences has gone down. The Agency, as it recognises, will need to make difficult decisions about whether to continue maintaining assets in some areas or let them lapse, increasing in future both the risk of floods and the potential need for more expensive ad-hoc emergency solutions.
"The achievement of value for money in the long term remains significantly uncertain."
Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said the NAO findings were a "damning indictment of Government neglect."
"Failure to tackle climate change carries a huge cost, as the devastating floods that battered Britain last winter showed," he said.
"The Chancellor's Autumn Statement next month must set out how he will defend Britain from climate change - both by plugging the £500m hole in flood defence spending, and by slashing carbon emissions."
The report was released the day after the Government launched its 'Floods Destroy' campaign, which warns people that "One in six properties in England is at risk of flooding. This is only going to increase with a changing climate. Many people think that flooding will never happen to them - but it could."
The two-week national campaign is encouraging residents and local businesses to take a series of simple steps to protect themselves, their families and homes.
VIDEO: Environment Agency Top Tips to stay #FloodAware
UK Floods: In Numbers
5m - UK properties at risk of flooding as of December 2013
£1bn - cost of the 2013/14 floods to UK insurers
£24bn - the replacement value of Britain's flood defences
£800m - total funding for flood risk management in 2014-15 - not enough according to the NAO
£200m - emergency funding allocated to the Environment Agency during last years floods.
250 - The number of years since the UK saw a wetter winter than 2013