Last winter's floods that brought disaster to England could strike again if the Government's decision to cut funding for flood defence measures isn't reversed MPS said, according to The Guardian.
The MP's report discovered, "overall funding does not reflect the increased flood risk being driven by climate change" as well as that "money for the maintenance of rivers and flood defences was at the bare minimum." In 2010, a 25% cut on flood defence measures was introduced.
While MP's respected the Government's efforts to provide relief, they claim that "cost-cutting on defences was a false economy" and led to millions having to be spent on emergency services and action instead of an initial investment in prevention. In addition, the Environment Agency (EA) predicted that by investing just £1 in flood prevention and defence measures will save as much as £8 in "future damage".
Conservative MP and chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra), Anna McIntosh, said, "Ministers must take action to avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the winter floods."
"It is essential we get the funding in place. We have repeatedly called on the government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out to minimise flood risk, yet funding for maintenance remains at a bare minimum."
A report produced by the Efra found that if dredging had been implemented earlier, it could have slashed the duration of the floods in Somerset however, would not have minimised the "depth of the waters or the area of land submerged."
Yet, the problem of dredging proved to be "highly controversial" and a great number of people living in this area blamed the absence of river maintenance for the floods that occurred in Somerset.
However, McIntosh claimed that dredging would not be an "all-purpose solution".
"You have to be realistic about the scale of the floods: the Somerset Levels were always going to flood."
Ministers also received a lot of criticism based on their policies and procedures that "sacrificed farmland in favour of urban, highly populated areas."
However, the EA, who were led by Lord Chris Smith, managed to avoid much criticism from the MPs.
McIntosh said, "The EA does what its political masters tell it to. The Efra committee welcomed EA moves to ease the rules governing how landowners fulfil their legal duties in maintaining the rivers flowing over their land."
During last years' winter, more than 7,000 homes were affected by the floods and it was classed as the "wettest winter" for roughly 250 years. Yet, it has to be said that during this time, around 1.3m properties were actually secured by various flood defence measures. The Committee on Climate Change claimed, "at least 500m more needed to be spent on flood defences, simply to keep up with the rising risks caused by global warming."
Maria Eagle, shadow environment secretary, brought forward MP findings that revealed that emergency funding which had originally been described as additional was instead re-allocated from several other budgets in the environmental department.
She commented, "David Cameron's ‘money is no object' promise has predictably proved totally false. The Government failed to prepare for the floods, they don't take the threat of climate change seriously and they don't have a coherent strategy to deal with the problem in the future."
Policy manager at the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Alastair Chisholm, both welcomed and criticised the claims and report put forward by MPs. While he welcomed the MPs claim that there are inadequate funds going towards flood defence measures, he also criticised their report that recommended providing a lot more support and protection for farmland. He said, "Unless funding grows hugely there will always be a case for prioritisation, to allocate it where it can protect the most lives and property."
He went on to criticise the MPs suggestion to put a larger focus on dredging in order to "speed up flood water flow"; this can increase the risk of flooding downstream.
At the moment, around 5m people based in England are at risk of flooding. Contacts of Guy Shrubsole, Earth climate campaigner, commented, "the government's own figures show that climate change could put a million more people at significant flood risk by the 2020s, but Owen Paterson is trying to shirk responsibility for this and seems to have used more energy in spinning the flood defence budget figures."
While Chief Executive of the National Flood Forum, Paul Cobbing, agreed with the recommendations put forward by MPs, he also claimed that they "failed to get to the heart of the issue."
He said, "Flood risk management should be seen as a national priority, not just something for Defra and its agencies to deal with. All government departments should be mandated to actively reduce flood risk. There is no room to be complacent: flooding wrecks lives."
In addition, McIntosh said that a balance is required between maintenance and engineered and natural flood defences. "But to be honest, it is a bit like the health service: you will never have enough funding" she commented.
Dan Rogerson, floods minister, said that the Government are doing their best to help people following the floods. He said, "We are spending £3.2bn over the course of this parliament on food management and protection from coastal erosion. That is more than ever before."
"We are tackling flooding on three levels: an unprecedented six year commitment to record levels of investment right up until 2021, giving local communities and internal drainage boards as much power as possible to decide how flood risk is managed in their area and unlocking an increase in partnership funding to help more flood defence schemes go ahead."
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