Thursday, October 11, 2007

UK must move faster to avert flood chaos, MPs are told

Guardian: Britain must move faster to improve its flood prevention and defences after the summer's deluge, the Environment Agency's chief executive warned yesterday. But under pressure from MPs investigating the floods, Lady Young insisted that the response had gone according to plan, and said the problems had been the result of "unprecedented" torrential rains.

…Asked why previous recommendations on reducing flooding had not helped, she said many had been acted on and others were being implemented now. "The issue is the pace at which they are implemented ... we need to move faster. We have pressed on as fast as we could with the things we are responsible for and urged the government to move on with things they're responsible for."

The Environment Agency came under pressure after it emerged that its executives were paid five-figure bonuses despite missing both its key flood defence targets, with Lady Young enjoying a £24,000 bonus. She said yesterday that flood defences had not failed, but had been overwhelmed. Most of the problems were caused by surface water overwhelming the drainage system. The government has since indicated it would like the agency to take overall responsibility for surface water, which at present is dealt with by numerous different bodies.

…Insurers have warned that homeowners and businesspeople in high-risk areas could struggle to get insurance cover unless the government increases its spending on flood defences. The Association of British Insurers had called on the government to spend £2.25bn in the coming three years - not the £2.15bn it offered in the comprehensive spending review.

Stephen Haddrill, the ABI's director-general, said: "The government has failed to play its part." Insurers have agreed to renew flood cover, provided adequate flood defences are in place, or if there are plans to build or improve flood defences in the next five years. In other areas they will work with consumers to see if there are additional ways of making properties more flood-resilient. But that deal only applies to existing customers.

No comments: