Councils left exposed on flood risks, NAO warns


The Government is unable to prove councils have enough funding for flood defences, a spending watchdog has discovered.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been told it must plug ‘gaps in its understanding’ to assess whether councils have enough resources.


A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that while many flood schemes are expected to be part-funded by councils, a date has not been set for a promised review of local government funding for flooding.

The review would ‘ensure it is fair and matches the needs and resources of local areas’.

The NAO said the costs of repairing and maintaining flood defences could increase by between 20% and 70% a year due to climate change and yet it found the proportion of funding going to the 20% most deprived areas of England has ‘reduced substantially’ since 2014.

Although the Government is on course to meet its target of protecting 300,000 homes from flooding by 2021, many of its future plans are ‘not time-limited or measurable’, while ‘some important commitments are not expected to be implemented until well into the future’.

The NAO advised Defra to issue a report on flood funding for councils and whether it is adequate annually, starting in the next financial year.

Head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said: ‘There is still no comprehensive measure to show that flood risk in England has reduced, even though the current programme is coming to an end.

‘Looking ahead to 2021-27, although the Government has set a clear ambition, the lack of robust measures to track progress means it will be difficult to demonstrate that its £5.6bn investment provides an adequate response to the changing risk and good value for taxpayers.’

A Defra spokeswoman said: ‘Our long-term plan is the most ambitious in a decade, a “significant step forward” according to the NAO, and will further accelerate progress to make us a better protected and more resilient nation.’

She added that they ‘invest wherever the risk is highest, and where it will benefit the most people and property.'

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