Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget last week missed a crucial opportunity to provide the long term funding certainty vital to efforts to improve the UK’s flood resilience, according to the ICE.
Osborne released an additional £140M to repair flood defences, on top of the £130M for emergency repairs and maintenance allocated in February.
The Budget also confirmed that the government is developing a long term plan to protect the country from future flooding, but this will not to be published until the autumn.
The ICE had urged the government to return capital and maintenance investment in flood risk management to pre-2010 levels in real terms in its submission to the Treasury ahead of the Budget.
It also called on government to use the Budget to commit to a longer term investment programme for flood risk management - beyond the current five year programme - to provide the long term certainty needed to improve flood resilience. Government funding is currently only protected in real terms until 2020-21.
The calls followed a warning from the Committee on Climate Change that investment in flood defences in this spending period is £500M behind the identified need, risking an extra £3bn in avoidable flood damages in future years. The committee also raised concerns that pressure on local authority budgets is resulting in more than half of the flood money from government being spent in other areas.
ICE director general Nick Baveystock said the extra funding was “welcome” but did little to provide much needed longer term certainty.
“The additional £140M funding for flood defence repairs is welcome and signals a commitment to better protecting homes and businesses from flooding,” he said.
“We are disappointed, however, that the government failed to provide the longer term certainty needed to improve our flood resilience by committing to an investment programme for flood risk management which protects funding beyond the current five year cycle. The Budget provided a crucial opportunity.”
Baveystock said it was now “vital that the government works closely with Local Lead Flood Authorities to target flood spending where it is needed most”. And he urged the government to “move quickly” in developing its long term plan due to be published in the autumn.
“The ICE and its members stand ready to work with the government to deliver more effective ways of building resilience into our flood risk management approach, and provide expertise and support to the government in its resilience review and upcoming plan,” he added.