Prescott pledges an extra £51 million for flood defences and more help for victims

Following the "wake-up call" of the most widespread floods since 1947 across Britain, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, announced an extra £51 million in flood defence expenditure, spread over the next four years, and 'recovery teams' for hard-hit areas.

Prescott announced the extra funds after holding an emergency Cabinet meeting on 4 November, saying the cash would go to bolster defences in England, where thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, but that extra resources for the rest of the United Kingdom were also being considered. This money will significantly increase the £290 million already allocated to the Environment Agency (EA) for flood defence expenditure for 2001-2002, which was an increase of £7 million over the 2000-2001figure.

Visiting the town of Selby, threatened by the rising River Ouse, the Secretary also said he would establish ‘recovery teams’ to help householders restore their flood-damaged properties. “I would like to see a recovery team which is there as people go through a process of change, finding accommodation and heaters to heat the house, getting insurance companies to help to quicken up the process to relieve the damage they face and the misery,” he said.

Prescott also criticised local agencies who failed to make use of funding to implement flood defence systems. “There’s money available for these schemes. And in some cases, the recommendations and the money was there and people in the area decided not to implement them.” He also denied claims that the government was warned by an independent report National Appraisal of Assets at Risk from Flooding and Coastal Erosionin June stating that flood damage would be likely to treble unless the government committed to an increase of £200million annually. “What we are giving at the moment is more than was recommended in the report”, he countered.

However, the Head of Water Management at the EA, told media that he would be “amazed” if a review of Britain’s flood defences, which is not expected until February, did not reveal the need for further funding. The extra money, of which only £2 million will reportedly be spent in the next 12 months, is expected to go on “running repairs” to inland defence systems and studies of preventing similar flooding in the worst hit towns. The criticism follows a recent report for the European Union on the impact of climate change in Europe, forecasting increased flooding in Northern Europe.

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