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Flood defence budget slashed by £170M

The government has delivered a widely anticipated blow to the construction industry by cutting more than £170M from budgets for flood defences.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will seek to make budget cuts of 29% across the board under plans outlined in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

Defra and its agencies will also shed between 5,000 and 8,000 jobs from their 30,000-strong workforce as part of chancellor George Osborne’s strategy to reduce the national deficit..

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman insisted the department had prioritised the maintenance of frontline services including flood defences in negotiating the reduction in its budget. But the CSR revealed cuts of £61M over the next four years in flood and coastal erosion defence maintenance budgets, and a further £110M in capital spending on new defences.

The cut in capital spending is lower, at around 30% of the budget, than the 50% reductions in capital projects across government. The Environment Agency predicts work on flood defences will secure better levels of protection for around 145,000 households in England by March 2015.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Whilst the ring fencing of £2bn over four years of public funding for coastal and flood defences is welcome, David Balmforth, Executive Technical Director with MWH is concerned about the effects of the spending review on the capability of Local Authorities to fulfil their flood risk management obligations set out in the recent Floods and Water Bill.

    “Flooding is set to be one of the biggest threats the UK faces in coming years. So there is now even more onus on Government to get the different responsible bodies working together more effectively. Flooding strikes at the very heart of communities and its effects go far beyond the immediate financial loss. If local authorities cannot take a lead we need to find an alternative way of delivering future measures,” says Balmforth

    Balmforth who also leads the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) work on flooding continues, “With public funding decreasing in real terms, it is vital that better value from our investment in managing flood risk is found. We need to shift from a reliance on defence to building resilience. This requires new approaches and for funding mechanisms and regulation that foster genuine collaboration between the many responsible bodies.”

    Christopher Digman, MWH Senior Principal Engineer specialising in Urban Drainage and Flooding in the urban environment agrees and adds: “To really address flood risk, we need to be able to get measures implemented in a systematic way. The current reductions in spending mean that we will have to use more innovatory ways of managing flood risk. These include reducing storm water flow at source, actively managing flood water on the surface, and making buildings and communities more resilient to flooding. We also need to reposition flood risk management in the general context of improving urban and rural communities. We need to demonstrate the delivery of multiple benefits to society e.g. flooding and wider environmental benefits such as improved water quality and an increase in green infrastructure. In particular we will need to look for innovative alternatives and retrofit measures. Central to this is public engagement as without the support of local communities, finding practical and sustainable solutions will become much more difficult and costly.”

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  • Not enough short term votes in providing for flood defence for our politicians to bother about it......never mind the destruction and suffering when the floods arrive and our economy is ravaged....they will be on high ground somewhere looking down on the "peasants" who dared to question their cosy existence.
    Jim Barrack

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