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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 10:26 GMT
'No improvement' in flood defence
Flooded street
MPs said the floods showed the "vulnerability" of infrastructure
Some flood defences in England are in a poor condition despite the Environment Agency receiving 40% more funding over five years, MPs have said.

The Public Accounts Committee said the severe summer flooding showed the "vulnerability" of key infrastructure.

The committee said flood defences had "not improved markedly."

Environment Agency chief executive Baroness Young defended its spending, which was 483m in 2006-07, saying: "We use our limited funding wisely."

The MPs' report is the latest to consider the summer flooding, with a preliminary report from the independent review concluding that the public and local authorities should have been better prepared.

Despite facing some of the biggest downpours ever recorded, 99.8% of our flood defences performed as they were built to do
Barbara Young
Environment Agency

In the committee report, entitled Environment Agency: Building and maintaining river and coastal flood defences in England, MPs said that in 2007-08 only 33 new defence schemes are expected to start, with 84% of funds spent on existing schemes.

"Despite an increase in funding from 303 million in 2001-02 to 550 million in 2005-06, spending fell to 483 million in 2006-07 (an increase in real terms of some 40% in five years), the state of flood defences in England has not improved markedly," the committee said.

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Committee chairman Edward Leigh said: "No system of flood defences can provide 100% protection against flooding.

"But that's far from saying we should be content with defences whose condition is not the best possible."

He added that "over half of the high risk systems, such as those protecting urban areas, are in a condition below the official target and some defences are in a poor condition".

He questioned whether funding for flood risk management, announced by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs to bring it up to 800m by 2010, "will be spent to best effect".

'Thousands protected'

Baroness Young said that as the committee report was based on a National Audit Office report from a year ago, "substantial progress had been made".

"In England last year we spent 377 million building and maintaining flood defences as well as raising public awareness through greatly improved flood mapping and warning systems.

"Since April 2003, 325,000 people in 129,000 homes are protected by improved flood defences," she said.

Progress had also been made on national flood coastal defence database.

"Our systems and defences were tested to the limit this summer by the floods that affected many parts of the country. "Despite facing some of the biggest downpours ever recorded, 99.8% of our flood defences performed as they were built to do," Baroness Young said.



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