MPs warn of 'inadequate' flood cash


The amount of money pledged by the Government to prevent a repeat of last summer's devastating floods is "inadequate", MPs warned today.

The Environment Select Committee said the infrastructure to deal with the kind of flooding witnessed across parts of England in June and July was in "an unclear and chaotic state".

The public would not forgive the Government if its response to the disaster was not "comprehensive and well funded", the committee's chairman Michael Jack warned.

The committee said ministers had repeatedly suggested that the £800m a year for flood management by 2010/2011 would allow the Government to deal effectively with flooding in the future.

But a report from the Efra committee warned the settlement under the Comprehensive Spending Review was "far less impressive under close analysis" and not sufficient to deal with traditional and new flooding threats.

The committee said it had been told the £800m figure was heavily influenced by a 2004 Foresight Report which recommended a spend of £1bn annually by 2015 - but only for coastal and river flooding.

Current flood defences focus almost entirely on river and coastal flooding but some two thirds of the floods last June and July were caused by surface water, often following heavy rainfall.

Some of the areas hit by the floods in Yorkshire and Humberside, the Midlands and the West Country were ones not previously thought to be at risk and were therefore ill-prepared.

No organisation has overall responsibility for surface water flooding at a national or local level, nobody was responsible for issuing flood warnings and it was unclear who was responsible for overflowing drains, the MPs said.

Some 13 people lost their lives in the floods, 44,600 homes and 7,100 businesses were flooded and £3 billion of damage was caused.

The events of last summer also highlighted the vulnerability of key infrastructure, such as power stations, the report said.

The MPs recommended that the Environment Agency should take a strategic role in dealing with surface water flooding nationally, providing advice and guidance to local authorities who should have a statutory duty to deal with surface drainage.

Recommendations from the MPs also included automatic registering of households for flood warnings in high risk areas with an "opt-out" approach, rather than the current "opt-in" system.

And the committee's chairman Michael Jack said Sir Michael Pitt should be appointed as the EA's "flood supremo" to insure his independent review commissioned by the Government into the flooding was implemented.

The report backed his recommendations that all new buildings on flood plains should be properly flood-resistant.

But it warned the Pitt Review may not be implemented unless the Government addressed an engineering skills shortage in the sector.

The committee also said the Government needed to explain how it would fund implementing Sir Michael's recommendations if costs exceed the £34.5m already set aside for that purpose.

Mr Jack said: "The public will not forgive the Government if it is not seen to be responding to the lessons learnt from the floods of last summer.

"Our report has shown how confused and chaotic was the infrastructure when it came to preventing and dealing with surface water flooding.

"The Government must bring clarity to this situation so that the public, wherever they live, can have peace of mind that every effort is being made to avoid a repeat of the fiasco of last summer.

"The Government will not be easily forgiven if their response to last summer's events are not seen as comprehensive and well funded."

But individuals also have some responsibility for dealing with surface water flooding, the MPs said.

They welcomed Government plans to ban the paving over of front gardens with non-porous materials without planning permission.

A spokeswoman for Defra said: "Last month, Sir Michael said strong progress was being made on the majority of these recommendations and that the country is therefore already better prepared for future flooding emergencies.

"The Government recognises just how important sorting out urban drainage is, which is why we are already consulting on who should take the lead on this and clarifying responsibilities in this area.

"In addition, in response to one of the urgent recommendations from Sir Michael, the Environment Agency has been working with local authorities and others to identify areas at highest risk from surface water flooding and the aim is to have an initial indication of areas that may, in certain circumstances, be prone to surface water flooding.

"The Government recognises we need to spend more on flood defences, which is why we have more than doubled the spending on flood and coastal erosion risk management in cash terms, to an estimated £650m this year, rising to £800m in 2010/2011."

The Local Government Association said the Government should introduce legal requirements forcing water companies to co-operate with local authorities to fight flooding.

Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA environment board, said: "The current system is fundamentally flawed. We simply cannot continue to have a situation where it is not clear who is responsible for dealing with vitally important functions such as drainage.

"There are glaring gaps in this country's readiness to cope with widespread and prolonged flooding. Last summer's floods were no fluke, and we run the real risk of witnessing a repeat - or worse - unless urgent action is taken now.

"We need to get back to basics. There should be no opt-out, no excuses and clear penalties for anybody who refuses to co-operate with managing our water systems.

"Councils should be allowed to start banging heads together so we can be better prepared to protect people and property."

Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said: "The floods last summer revealed institutional confusion and this report shows that without decisive action the Government is sleepwalking the country into another flooding disaster.

"With climate change and increased risk of flooding, the Government cannot simply cross its fingers and hope that we don't have a repeat of last year's rainfall.

"The state of our flood defences present serious cause for concern and with 6,500 households still unable to return home after last year's floods, there is little hope we are better prepared for further flooding."

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Steve Webb said the current levels of funding for flooding were "totally inadequate".

"The ABI, the Government's own Foresight report and the agency responsible for flood defences are all calling for spending to be increased to £1 billion, but their advice is falling on deaf ears.

"The £200m increase the Government announced last year does not stand up to scrutiny when inflation and rising costs in the building trade are taken into consideration.

"It is too little to cope with the increasing risks the country faces, and doesn't even come fully into effect for another two years," he warned.

The Association of British Insurers' (ABI) director general Stephen Haddrill said despite last year's disaster, the UK remained ill-prepared for coping with a major flood.

"As the Committee recommends, the Government should review the adequacy of its current flood spending plans."

Mr Haddrill also said: "We need a Floods Bill in the forthcoming Queen's Speech to clarify flood management responsibility, and to ensure we effectively manage the flood risk."

He said the problem of surface water flooding could not be tackled without such a Bill, which would need to give the Environment Agency strategic responsibility for all flooding, and local authorities responsibility, power and money to manage local surface water.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform