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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 11:25 GMT
Flood defence cash 'needed fast'
Catcliffe, near Sheffield during floods in June
Parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands flooded in June and July
The government's pledged increased spending on flood defences will not come soon enough, councils have warned.

Action is needed "urgently" to protect critical infrastructure, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.

The prime minister has pledged to boost funding from 600m a year to 800m by 2010/2011, after the summer floods.

But in its submission to the Pitt Review into flooding in Yorkshire and the Midlands, the LGA said: "Three years is simply too long to wait."

The total cost of floods in south-west England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside is estimated at 4bn.

Spending doubled

The government says it has doubled investment in flood defences in the past 10 years.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has announced spending between 2008 and 2011, which will total 2.15bn.

It is vital we start improving our systems and defences as soon as possible
Paul Bettison
LGA's environment chairman

The amount spent will rise incrementally from 600m this year to 650m in 2008/9, 700m in 2009/10 and then 800m in 2010/11.

But in its response, the LGA argued that delaying the money could cost more in the long term.

In its submission to the Pitt Review chairman Sir Michael Pitt, the LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, said there needed to be more investment in flood defences and drainage.

Floods 'carnage'

It also called for incentives for householders to take their own precautions, stronger requirements for utility companies to safeguard key facilities like pumping stations and tougher controls on building on flood plains.

The chairman of the LGA's environment board, Paul Bettison, said the summer floods had caused "carnage" and "ruined the lives of thousands of people" as well as costing billions.

This submission is further evidence that the government has still not got to grips with the full impact of climate change
Chris Huhne
Lib Dems

"There is no guarantee we will not see a repeat of the heavy rainfall which led to that flooding, and so it is vital we start improving our systems and defences as soon as possible.

"The government provided additional funding to deal with the clean-up operation over the summer. The prime minister's decision to invest more in flood defences was also a positive move, but three years is simply too long to wait."

Meanwhile, Stephen Haddrill, director general of the Association of British Insurers, said the "economic and social damage" caused by flooding was "massive" and flood defences needed to be improved.

He added: "A long-term, strategic investment plan is needed which incorporates flood defences, drainage and surface water, planning, to ensure proper protection for the country in the coming decades."

Careful planning

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne said the LGA's submission showed the government had "still not got to grips with the full impact of climate change".

"Flood defence budgets are below where they should be, and there is still no agency with overarching responsibility for flooding," he said.

In response, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said investment in flood defences had to be planned carefully.

"Flood and coastal erosion risk management is a long term business, and requires thorough assessment and proper planning if resources are to be invested to best reduce risk, so increased funding alone would not bring about improvements any faster," a spokesman said.

He said investment was being accompanied by "a national programme of prioritised work" which takes into account the changing climate.



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