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Government spending on flood defences slammed by MPs

Commons environment committee demands more money to protect vulnerable people across the country

Government investment in flood defences for vulnerable areas has been attacked as “insufficient” and “short-sighted” by an influential cross-party group of MPs.

The damning evaluation of coalition spending by the House of Commons environment committee indicated that the UK’s watercourses are being neglected due to “low levels” of funding from Whitehall.

Following the wettest spring on record, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to spend £370m on flood defences annually until 2020 and promised to protect the current maintenance budget from further cuts.

In response, the Conservative chair of the committee, Anne McIntosh, said spending had failed to keep pace with the increasingly severe weather battering much of the UK.

“The Chancellor must ensure that investment increases by £20m, year on year,” she said.

"Record rainfall in the past two years has led to extensive flooding, cost the economy millions and caused disruption and distress to householders and communities across the UK.

“We need that money over the next 25 years to protect homes and businesses better. Maintenance of these defences and effective dredging of watercourses must be a priority.”

The group’s report, which was released today, adds: “Investment remains insufficient to meet growing flood risk. With the likelihood of more frequent severe weather incidents leading to increased flooding, [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] must convince HM Treasury that capital investment must be increased.”

“Reduced revenue funding in recent years has led to a failure to maintain defences and watercourses effectively. Pegging revenue investment close to current low levels is short-sighted and risks undermining the benefits of capital investment.”

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, a Defra spokeswoman highlighted the Government’s commitment to maintaining flood defence investment up to 2020, stressing the money would be used “on long-term projects”.