Funding gap threatens to sink flood defence plans

Government plans to spend £2.3bn plugging holes in flood defences is at risk because it relies on £600m of private cash, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The cross-party Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has said that the low levels of private funding which has been attracted to date threaten to sink the ambitious scheme which would protect 300,000 properties.

The funding gap, which was identified in the 2013-14 Defra performance report, also highlighted an absence of transparency in plans to find budget savings in the department in the coming years.

Committee Chair, Anne McIntosh MP commented: “The Government has committed £2.3 billion in capital funding for six years’ investment aimed at protecting 300,000 properties, but that plan relies on external contributions of £600 million.

“We support the principle that the private sector should help to fund new flood defence schemes, but we have repeatedly expressed concern about the relatively small amounts of private sector funding secured to date under the Partnership Funding approach, with only £40 million of the £148 million secured up to 2014-15 coming from sources beyond local government.

“It is unclear how the £600 million target can be met, and we want Defra to demonstrate how it intends to obtain that money and to explain the impact on its investment programme if the money does not come forward.”

“The Committee also repeats its call on Government to move to a total expenditure classification for flood risk management and flags that revenue funding would benefit from a six-year funding commitment alongside capital. The Committee believes revenue and capital spending must be balanced to ensure both receive the same priority.”

The Defra performance report can be found on here.