THE upcoming Budget presents a crucial opportunity for Government to show its long term commitment to better protecting communities, businesses and infrastructure from extreme flooding events, said the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in a statement in late February.
In its submission to Treasury ahead of the March Budget, the ICE urges Government to return capital and maintenance investment in flood risk management to pre-2010 levels in real terms. To provide the long term certainty needed to improve flood resilience, it also calls on Government to commit to a longer term investment programme for flood risk management – beyond the current 5 year programme – and to work more closely with Local Lead Flood Authorities to target flood spending where it is needed most.
The calls follow a recent warning from the Committee on Climate Change that investment in flood defences in this spending period is £500 million behind the identified need, risking an extra £3 billion 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 floods money from Government being spent in other areas.
ICE Director General, Nick Baveystock, said: “While Government funding for flood risk management rose to £370m in 2015-16 and is protected in real terms to 2020-21, unfortunately this provides neither the level of investment or long term certainty required to improve resilience against flooding. The reductions to the maintenance settlement are also concerning, and as the recent flooding and coastal surges have shown; the flood defences protecting our communities, businesses and the other vital infrastructure networks and services we depend on, must be maintained – regularly and comprehensively.
“The £130 million recently pledged by Government to help fund emergency repairs and maintenance following the recent events is welcome – however, it does not make up for the cuts made in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.
“This under-spend has been detrimental to communities, business and infrastructure and Government has an opportunity at the March budget to address this – demonstrating its commitment to decision making for the longer term and ensuring flood spending is targeted effectively.”