Clare Moody MEP for Somerset, visited the Environment Agency offices in Bridgwater this week to get an update on the ongoing work to try to avoid a repeat of last years devastating floods on the Somerset moors.
After the meeting, Clare said ‘Earlier this year I was appalled that the Government, for seemingly ideological reasons, failed to apply for European funds that could have helped with flood relief. Today I saw how much work the Environment Agency are putting in to preventing people going through the same distress as last year. However, I remain deeply concerned that Cameron’s government by press release rather than through action will not deliver for the people of Somerset.’
Last week’s report by the National Audit Office painted a worrying picture of our flood defences, half of which are only being maintained to a minimal level:
“Assets in the affected systems are likely to deteriorate faster as a result, potentially resulting in a lower standard of protection, as well as increasing capital replacement costs in the long term”
NAO, Strategic Flood Risk Management
Bridgwater and West Somerset Labour PPC cllr Mick Lerry, who accompanied Clare to the EA, said: “The reason behind it – underfunding. The NAO found that the Government’s cuts to flood defence spending amounted to a real terms fall of 10% in total funding between 2010/11 and 2014/15. This at a time when climate change is putting increasing pressure on our flood defences. It’s a short termist strategy with long-term implications. The Committee on Climate Change calculated that current spending plans would put 330,000 more properties at serious risk from flooding by 2035”.
Labour Government increased flood spending
After the shock of the 2007 floods the last Labour government dramatically increased spending on flood defences, it was clear long term investment was needed in flood prevention. But even after the 2013 winter storms, we still haven’t seen real change in this Government’s approach. The National Audit Office found that, even if you consider the £270 million that Cameron made available, it still represents a real terms decrease of 6% between 2010/11 and 2014/15.
“And the money offered during Cameron’s post-floods tour of the South West hasn’t been effective in helping rebuild our communities because many simply haven’t seen it. Six months after the floods we heard that of the £10 million promised in the Farming Recovery Fund, only £1,396,264 of grant funding to farm businesses has been approved and committed. Of the £4 million promised for council tax rebates, local councils were only reimbursed a total of £1.8 million. And the Government had paid out only £2 million of the £9 million of business rates relief that was promised”, said Mick
Cuts are a false economy
Mick said: “Cuts to flood defence spending are a false economy. If we don’t prepare for flooding now we’ll pay a heavier price tag later. That’s why the next Labour Government will re-prioritise long-term preventative spending that will reduce flood risk. What’s more Labour recognises that flood defenses aren’t just for our homes, but for our businesses too. That’s why when Labour establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission to identify our country’s long-term infrastructure needs, flood defenses will be a part of it. People in the Bridgwater and West Somerset Constituency want a Government taking action to prevent flooding, not just to cross our fingers and hope it doesn’t happen”.
Cllr Mick Lerry – Leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset Constituency
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