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UK communities deserve flood protection that keeps pace with the rising flood threat

The recent Government confirmation of where it will be spending its investment in flood defence projects will be welcomed by the 300,000 homeowners who should benefit from better flood protection – even if it is not new money, but clarification of where the £2.3 billion capital investment set out in last year’s Spending Review will actually go.

But we are still failing to keep pace with the investment needed to protect against the increasing flood threat risk. The ABI’s analysis of the Environment Agency’s recently published Long Term Investment Strategy for Flood and Coastal Risk Management in England (LTIS) highlights how our flood defence investment strategy is falling short in its thinking and investment:

  • The report prioritises flood defence investment in terms of economic benefit, when the focus needs to be on properties at highest flood risk. If such an approach was actually taken, the likely result would be that areas at significant risk of flooding but with relatively low economic benefits such as rural or deprived communities would slip down the priority list.
  • The current funding level of £927.3m is misleading. It includes emergency funding provided to repair flood defences, local authority funding for which there is no evidence for the flood risk measures it is spent on, and funding for the Environment Agency's overheads. A more appropriate baseline figure would actually be around £600m, around £190m-320m below the figure suggested as the optimum funding levels. There is little consideration of maintenance, which was reduced by nearly 40% in the last Spending Review.

While we recognise the pressures and constraints on Government spending, long term flood defence investment strategy must reflect the evidence of what is needed to keep pace with our rising flood risk; the effects of climate change require decisive and strategic action now. Homeowners and businesses who live with the daily worry of flooding deserve nothing less.

Aidan Kerr is Assistant Director, Head of Property, Association of British Insurers.

Last updated 29/06/2016