MILLIONS OF pounds of essential flood defence work could be postponed this year because flaws in the funding regime have left local authorities short of cash, councils said this week.
Current funding arrangements prevent councils from reclaiming flood defence money from central government for 12 months, said Local Government Association head of environment Mike Ashley.
This has created major problems for councils in areas whose flood defences took a battering during the autumn floods last year.
'The system works if we have a generally stable flooding situation, ' said Ashley, 'but not if you suddenly have a year of much higher expenditure.'
Flood defences throughout the country have been left in disrepair following the autumn 2000 floods.
Recent research by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change also suggests extreme flood events will become more frequent, with sea levels rising by up to 88mm by 2100.
The complaints about the system came as local authorities, which pay yearly levies to the Environment Agency for local flood defences, decide whether they can afford larger levies following the autumn 2000 floods.
Some regional levies, such as that for Yorkshire, have been increased by as much as 37%, equating to nearly £7M extra.
Yorkshire is still short of £7M flood defence money despite receiving £5M from Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions last week for emergency flood defence repairs.
DETR is putting a total of £9M towards the estimated £16M emergency flood defence repairs nationwide.