There are major risks to the sustainability of current levels of flood protection, according to the Public Accounts Committee’s report. The report warns that some five million properties across England are at risk.
The report notes that one in six properties are at risk of flooding from coastal, river or surface water. In 2013, the risk of flooding from the coast was one of the highest priority risks on the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.
While the report acknowledges the work the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has done, it adds that there are still areas that need improving to ensure long-term value is not impacted.
Richard Bacon MP commented, “There are major risks to the sustainability of current levels of flood protection, which could impact on long-term value for money.
“For example, the current capital budget for flood risk management has been approved for a six year period, but the revenue budget settlement is agreed on an annual basis. This limits the Agency’s ability to take a long-term approach to planning and procuring maintenance. The Agency’s new long-term investment strategy should be used as a basis to negotiate future settlements.”
The report also notes that because of limited resources the Environment Agency needs to “make difficult decisions” about what it can and cannot fund. As a result, some defences will see funding reduced or stopped, as of August 2014, around half of all asset systems were on a ‘minimum’ regime.
“Reducing the spend of maintaining some flood defences may be a false economy as additional spending could be needed if those defences then fail earlier than they would otherwise have done,” added Bacon.
MPs also state that there is a lack of public awareness about the realities of flood risk management, such as the responsibilities placed on individual landowners to maintain flood defences. The committee urged the Environment Agency to address this issue and raise the level of public understanding.
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