Page last updated at 09:53 GMT, Friday, 14 December 2007

Flood funding 'too inconsistent'

Flooding in Tewkesbury, July 2007
Tewkesbury after the Rivers Severn and Avon burst their banks

Financial aid for parts of the country struck by flooding this summer was inconsistent and hastily put together, a public spending watchdog has said.

The Audit Commission said the support came quickly, but it was poorly targeted and not good value for money.

The proportion of the 250m cost of the floods met by local authorities ranged from 3% to 73%, the watchdog said.

The government welcomed the praise for its rapid response but disagreed with the wider analysis of the report.

'Unprecedented steps'

The Department for Communities and Local Government argued that a one-size fits all approach to the disaster would have been inappropriate.

Floods Recovery Minister John Healey said: "Communities wanted quick and comprehensive support, not a response set out in a rule book six inches thick.

This is a tale of two floods
Steve Bundred, Audit Commission

"I make no apologies for acting swiftly and decisively and we would have rightly been criticised if we'd done otherwise.

Mr Healey told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the government stands by its decision to let local councils decide how the rapid response money should be spent.

"I think we were right to let local authorities decide how best to spend it," he said, adding that local officials were best-positioned to determine need.

But Conservative shadow local government minister Alistair Burt said the report amounts to a catalogue of failings.

"This research shows that despite the dossier of blunders there is no clear action plan to pre-empt another emergency. Labour need to rethink their strategy," Mr Burt said.

Roads affected by the floods are expected to cost 73m, of which the Department for Transport has provided 50m.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has made 17m available in flood recovery grants.

And education authorities have received more than 13m from the Department for Schools.

The Audit Commission's report assessed the impact of the floods on the 18 worst-hit local authorities, and looked at who would foot the bill.

Four local authorities were hit hardest.

Some 69% of the 250m cost has been shouldered by Hull, East Riding, Gloucestershire and Sheffield.

'Badly thought-out'

The estimated net cost per household in Hull was 326, compared with 1 in Cherwell, Oxfordshire.

The Audit Commission said the government provided money quickly and generously, but said the way the funds were allocated had not been well thought-out.

The commission warned the unpredictability of the government's response meant people were likely to be left either exposed by councils that under-insure, or out of pocket by those that insure unnecessarily.

Steve Bundred, chief executive of the Audit Commission, said: "This is a tale of two floods. There are some local authorities which, although badly hit by the flooding, will bounce back quickly.

"Others will be dealing with the effects of the flooding for some time to come."


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Aerial footage of areas hit by flooding



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