The UK Government’s announcement that it is to spend £2.3bn on flood defences has received a lukewarm welcome from the UK insurance industry.
The plan commits to capital investment in over 1400 flood defence projects in a six-year programme of investment. The Government says over 300,000 homes will be better protected and over £30bn of economic damages prevented. Major projects include £57m for Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, £80m for the Humber Estuary and over £17m for Tonbridge, Yalding and the surrounding communities.
In addition, the government has committed to spend £15.5m in Somerset on flood defences over the next six years benefitting 7,000 properties, including £4.2m on the Somerset Levels and Moors.
Huw Evans, ABI’s director of policy, said that insurers welcome the increased investment following the cuts initially made by the Coalition Government in 2010. "However to keep pace with what is needed to protect our flood-risk communities, the Government's own climate change advisers have identified a £500 million shortfall between current spending and what is necessary so it is vital that the next spending review continues to increase funding for flood defences and maintenance if we are to be prepared for the future," he said.
In November the National Audit Office said the UK Government is not spending enough on flood defences. The NAO report said there was a real terms decrease of 6% in maintenance funding between 2010-11 and 2014-15.
The government made an extra £270m available following the winter storms in 2013. This included an additional £35m for asset maintenance in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. In cash terms, this has restored maintenance funding to 2010-11 levels.
Excluding the one-off funding of £200m provided following the winter floods, total funding decreased in real terms by 10% in the same period. "Sustaining the current standard of flood protection is challenging in this context, especially as climate change increases the load on flood defences," the report said.
The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) is meant to work with local authorities, encouraging them to publish quickly their local strategies for dealing with future floods. As of March 2014, only 16% had done so, despite this requirement being in place since 2011.