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Flood defence spending higher in the south-east than the north Labour claims

Image credit: reuters

UK spending on flood defences favours wealthier people in the south-east of England the Labour Party has claimed as areas in the north suffer some of the worst flooding in over a decade.

Labour said that spending on environmental services such as flood prevention had fallen by 15 per cent in the North West, 14 per cent in Yorkshire and 3 per cent in the East Midlands between 2016 and 2018. Meanwhile the south-east has seen a rise in spending of 14.5 per cent over the same period.

The Environment Agency (EA) said there has not been a significant change in the way flood defence spending is assessed.

Labour’s claims come as it announced plans to set up a new £5.6bn fund to level up flood defences over 10 years if it wins the next election.

Research by PA Media in 2016 suggested the system for allocating taxpayers’ money to flood defence schemes favours protecting wealthy families and those in the south-east.

The methods to determine where funding goes focuses on the value of assets protected – which could tilt the system towards richer households and those in parts of the country where house prices are higher, the analysis found.

To secure funding, a flood protection scheme has to demonstrate it delivers more in benefits than it costs to implement and maintain the defences – by calculating the economic losses avoided through protecting property and infrastructure.

The calculation looks at direct damages for homes and other buildings and their contents, clean-up costs, loss of agricultural production and commercial stock as well as indirect damages such as disruption to transport links, water, electricity or access to amenities.

Government assessment for England shows around 5.2 million properties, or one in six properties, are at risk of flooding.

Earlier today Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a frosty response from South Yorkshire residents during a visit to assess the damage caused by the flood.

“You took your time, Boris,” one person told Johnson as he walked through the area accompanied by local officials, while another asked him: “Where’ve you been?”

Another resident was more welcoming, telling Johnson: “Go get ‘em.”

A study published earlier this year by the Committee on Climate Change showed that across the UK as a whole, 1.8 million people are living in homes which are in areas of significant risk of river, surface water or coastal flooding – which could rise to 3.5 million under a 4°C climate change scenario by the 2080s.

The EA said there has been a reduction of approximately 1,900 in its staff since Natural Resources Wales (NRW) was created in 2013 and the transfer of corporate services staff to Defra in 2017.

NRW took over many of the functions of the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales and the Environment Agency in Wales, and certain Welsh Government functions.

The EA said it has around 6,500 trained staff across the country, ready to respond to flooding, including 314 trained flood support officers.

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