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ICE: Local authorities do not have the resources to serve their communties

Local authorities may not have access to the resources necessary to effectively implement flood defence strategies for their communities, the ICE said this week.

Initial findings of an inquiry into the 2010 Flood & Water Management Act expressed these fears following hearings held last week.

Representatives from the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, Department of Communities and Local Government, the Environment Agency, National Flood Forum, Association of Drainage Authorities, Local Government Association, and local organisations all presented evidence at the ICE’s inquiry into the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act.

The inquiry is looking at how new local responsibilities will impact on the planning and delivery of flood risk management.

The Act was introduced primarily to put into practice recommendations made by Sir Michael Pitt in 2008.
It gives local authorities more responsibilities for flood risk management. However evidence suggests public spending cuts and uncertainty about the availability of private finance have led to fears that the funding might not be there to enable them to implement the new legislation effectively.

There was also discussion about whether councils have sufficient and adequate skills to deliver their additional responsibilities and whether all parties involved in flood risk management such as the Environment Agency, internal drainage boards, water companies and lead local authorities were clear about their new roles. 
ICE project manager Simon Whalley is working closely with the steering group - chaired by Halcrow coastal director Dick Thomas.

Local leadership

He said the work is an important step in understanding how increased local leadership will deliver national strategies for long-term flood risk management.

“Now that we have the framework in place in the form of the Flood & Water Management Act, we need to understand how it is being put into practice and what areas might need more attention.

In particular there is a risk that even though greater responsibility is devolved to localities, the skills, funds and capacity may not necessarily always exist locally to put this to best effect.

“The ICE inquiry hopes to assess whether this is the case and if so how it can be addressed.”

The ICE group will produce a final report by the end of March. It is also submitting a response to the Environment Agency’s consultation on its new Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, which looks at a move away from centralised funding to more appropriate local
level funding.

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