Hundreds of thousands of British homes will miss out on flood protections in the next few years as spending has been affected by Brexit, inflation and the pandemic, according to the National Audit Office.
In 2020, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it would double funding for flood resilience to £5.2 billion, setting a target to better protect 336,000 homes in the six years to 2027.
But now, the Environment Agency, tasked with delivering the program, estimates that only 200,000 homes will be protected — 40% less than promised, according to an NAO report published Wednesday. Homes in the East and West Midlands are more at risk, receiving just a quarter of the spending in the North East of England get, it found.
The report comes as effects of climate change become increasingly frequent in the UK. Storm Ciarán battered western Europe earlier this month, bringing punishing winds, widespread flooding and leading to several fatalities. Storm Babet, which pummeled the region in late October, caused some 2,200 homes to be flooded.
“We will consider the National Audit Office’s recommendations as we continue to deliver our record investment to protect hundreds of thousands of homes from floods,” the Environment Agency and the environmental department — known as Defra — both said in separate statements.
The government has invested more than £1.5 billion to protect more than 60,000 properties homes and businesses in the first years of the program that runs to 2027, they said.
Multiple factors have contributed to the lower forecast for flood protections, according to the NAO. They include supply chain difficulties and a shortfall in skilled workers, due to the pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union. Inflation and deferred funding have also played a part.
Meanwhile, a £34 million shortfall in the Environment Agency’s maintenance funding has caused a separate 203,000 properties to be at increased risk, the NAO said. Some of the £5.2 billion capital spending could be used for routine maintenance, it added.
“Government must decide what level of flood resilience it wants to achieve and how it can make long-term investment decisions that provide the best protection for citizens and businesses,” Meg Hillier, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, said in a statement.
Photograph: Staff clean up after the storm at Watch House Cafe on the beach, on Nov. 03, 2023 in West Bay, Dorset. While parts of the country grapple with Storm Babet’s flooding aftermath, Storm Ciaran unleashed winds surpassing 100 mph, torrential rain, and significant damage across the southwest, south of England, and the Channel Islands. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
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