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Officials "Sacrificing" Rural Areas To Floods
10:55am 17th June 2014
(Updated 10:55am 17th June 2014)
It is claimed places like Cornwall are being "sacrificed" to save towns and cities from floods.
A report by a powerful group of MPs says rural areas are being short changed.
Funding for clearing rivers, routine dredging and maintaining existing flood defences is at a "bare minimum", MPs have warned.
A report on the winter floods, which saw 7,000 homes hit after repeated storms and the wettest winter on record, has called for maintaining flood defences over cost-cutting.
The Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee said the funding for maintenance work needed to keep up with an increased risk caused by more frequent extreme weather events.
MPs urged the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to draw up fully-funded plans to address a backlog of maintenance work and maintain flood defences.
Cornwall was left with a £21m repair bill when the winter storms raged through.
Committee chairwoman Anne McIntosh said: "We have repeatedly called on the Government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out to minimise flood risk, yet funding for maintenance remains at a bare minimum.
"Ministers must take action now to avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the winter floods.
"The Government needs to recognise the importance of regular maintenance work and put it on an equal footing with building new defences."
The Environment Agency was criticised for failing to carry out dredging on rivers when the Somerset Levels flooded during the winter.
Dredging operations began on the River Parrett in Somerset in March with extra funding from the Government.
The report added: "The avoidance of flood events that devastate communities should, as far as is possible, take priority over cost-cutting."
It welcomed £270m of additional funding for tackling flooding, but said £130m of that had been reallocated from elsewhere in the Defra budget.
Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said: "In February David Cameron said 'money was no object' when it came to flood defence funding, yet today the select committee says that the funding the Government describe as additional is actually only reallocated."
An Environment Agency spokesman added: "We review our maintenance programme to make sure we spend taxpayers' money where it is most effective and are working with Defra on several pilot projects aimed at making it easier for farmers and landowners to undertake watercourse maintenance."
North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson is also Environment Minister.
He tells Pirate FM money is being spent across the country, he said: "It's absolutely right for the committee to say we need to keep the existing defences up to where they need to be, that is why we got an extra £270m to get those defences back to where they should be after the battering they had this winter.
"Huge areas of the country are vulnerable to different sorts of flooding, coastal flooding, river flooding, and that is why we are investing £3.3bn in defences in this parliament, more than has been invested before, but of course there are lessons we have to learn and we very much welcome what the report has to say."
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