Government hits back against 10% flood defence spending cuts claim

The government has hit back against a report by the public spending watchdog which said that flood defence spending across England had fallen by 10 per cent between 2011/12 and 2014/15.

Flooding: row over government spending
Flooding: row over government spending

Today’s National Audit Office report, Strategic flood risk management, said that, in the face of increasing flood risk in England and pressure on defences, the Environment Agency has improved the cost effectiveness and prioritisation of its flood risk spending.

It said the agency has also "improved the way it presents flood modelling data, and has committed to more improvements in both sophistication and ease of use".

However, the report added that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the agency "have limited resources to spend on maintaining and enhancing the standard of flood protection in England".

The NAO said the government made an extra £270 million available following the winter storms in 2013.

It said this included an additional £35 million for asset maintenance in both 2014/15 and 2015/16 and, in cash terms, this restored maintenance funding to 2010/11 levels.

However, it added: "This represents a real terms decrease of 6 per cent between 2010/11 and 2014/15. Excluding the one-off funding of £200 million provided following the winter floods, total funding decreased in real terms by 10 per cent in the same period. Sustaining the current standard of flood protection is challenging in this context, especially as climate change increases the load on flood defences".

But the government has hit back at the claims. Flooding minister Dan Rogerson said the NAO had "drawn conclusions on funding based on inappropriate comparisons".

He added: "We have invested £3.2 billion in flood management and defences over the course of this parliament which is a real term increase and half a billion more than in the previous parliament. This has allowed us to protect 165,000 families and households in vulnerable areas.

"Not only are we spending more than ever before, but we are also ensuring that our investment strategy will deliver long-term value for money. Next month, we will set out the first ever 6-year programme with record levels of investment, which will protect another 300,000 homes by the end of the decade".

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