The House of Commons Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee wants to see more money to address the current backlog of dredging and watercourse maintenance as well as to maintain the growing numbers of man-made flood defences.
“Too often maintenance is neglected until a need is created for costly one-off capital investment,” their report into last winter floods says. “Defra needs to recognise the importance of regular and sustained maintenance work in the prevention and management of flood risk and take steps to reflect the equal importance of maintenance alongside capital. The avoidance of flood events that devastate communities should, as far as is possible, take priority over cost-cutting.”
Launching the report, committee chair Anne McIntosh said: "We have repeatedly called on the government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out to minimise flood risk, yet funding for maintenance remains at a bare minimum. Ministers must take action now to avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the winter floods."
She added: "Regular work to dredge and keep rivers clear can be an essential flood prevention measure, yet this is exactly what gets squeezed out when budgets are tight. The government needs to recognise the importance of regular maintenance work and put it on an equal footing with building new defences"
The committee identifies the current split between capital and revenue budgets as a major barrier to targeting funding according to local priorities. "We want clarity for everyone when it comes to flood funding budgets" said Ms McIntosh. "We see no reason why the government cannot move to a total expenditure approach for flood funding to allow more flexibility to spend in the most effective way."
The full report can be downloaded here