Public Accounts Committee holds an evidence session on the strategic flood risk management: progress review.
Scope of the inquiry
Some 5.2 million properties in England are at risk of flooding, and the winter floods of 2013-14 reignited public debate on how government addresses flood risk. In England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has national policy responsibility for flood risk management. The Environment Agency has a strategic overview role and is also responsible for managing the risk of flooding from main rivers and seas.
In the face of increasing flood risk in England and pressure on defences, the Environment Agency has improved cost effectiveness and how it prioritises its flood risk spending. However, Defra and the Agency have limited resources and current spending may be insufficient to meet many of the maintenance needs the Agency has identified for its flood defences.
At the time, government made an extra £270 million available following the winter storms in 2013. This included an additional £35 million for asset maintenance in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. In cash terms, this restored maintenance funding to 2010-11 levels. However, in real terms, this represented a 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.
In light of this, this inquiry conducted by the Public Accounts Committee in 2014 considered the challenges to sustaining the current standard of flood protection, the effectiveness of the government’s flood risk assessment and investment appraisal, and the longer-term value for money of the maintenance programme.
The report published by the Committee in early 2015 contained a number of recommendations around funding and realistic flood defence management. In light of recent developments, the Public Accounts Committee, in its session on Monday 25th January 2016, intends to revisit the topic to monitor how the Department and the Environment Agency have taken forward the recommendations of the PAC report.