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Warning over flood defence cuts

Cutting flood defence budgets now could cost the country much more in the long-term, the Government has been warned.

Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to cut the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) resource spending by 29% and capital spending by 34% during last week’s comprehensive spending review. This would include £2bn ring-fenced for coastal and flood defences over the four year review period of 2011-15.

But the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) said that the cuts could cost the country £4.8bn after citing Environment Agency research which found that for every 1 spent on flood defences the UK saves 8 in the future in reduced damage.

The forecast was based on a worst case scenario in which there would be a reduction of £150M in the budget over the next four years.

David Balmforth, who leads the ICE’s work on flooding, said that the private sector would need to play a more prominent role in terms of funding in future and that the Government had a crucial part to play in encouraging this investment by creating a more stable business environment.

He said: “With public funding decreasing in real terms, delivering better value from our investment in managing flood risk will be crucial. Funding mechanisms and regulation must work to enable progress rather than hinder it, and improved collaboration between the many responsible bodies will be essential. Investment will need to shift from a reliance on defence to building resilience.

“We will need to change our focus, looking for innovative alternatives that deliver multiple benefits to society. Central to this will be public engagement –without the support of local communities, finding practical and sustainable solution will become much more difficult and costly.”

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