The recent floods across the UK are the result of continual government cuts to the Environment Agency – it is that simple.
The agency has been unable to maintain existing flood defences to a high standard, and have only been able to keep 63% of flood defences at an acceptably reliable operational level.
Last year, the National Farmers Union warned of serious risks to farmers all over the country from the Environment Agency’s lack of maintenance of existing defences, and NFU President, Meurig Raymond made a statement in October saying “That said, I’m concerned that more priority isn’t being placed on the Environment Agency’s own asset maintenance work given last year’s flooding. Another five per cent is being trimmed from the Environment Agency’s revenue budget in 2014-15 on top of cuts over the previous three years. On the Somerset Levels and Moors during 2012 we saw most starkly the impact of neglecting to maintain conveyance and capacity.”
Again this year, the Somerset Levels and Moors have been subjected to severe flooding – virtually wiping farms from the landscape.
In October last year the agency announced that it was to shed 1,700 jobs at it faced larger than expected cuts in its budget, which would leave only around 9,700 staff members by October 2014.
An Environment Agency spokesman told the BBC in January that the cuts would have an impact on flood operations such as risk management, maintenance and modelling.
The Efra select committee (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee) expressed concerns about the budget cuts to the Environment Agency and the impact on flood defences.
In the Efra report published by MPs on 7th January, chair (and Conservative MP) Anne McIntosh said “Recent flooding events reinforce our concerns about cuts to the Defra budget. It is a small ministry facing massive cuts,” and added “It is remarkable that the current flood defences have held against the force of the substantial and sustained recent battering.”
But as recent news has shown, many of the UK’s flood defences have not held.
Year-on-year spending fell by over a quarter when the coalition took power in 2010 and, despite partial U-turns since then, real-terms spending will be significantly lower at £546m in 2015-16 than the £646m spent in 2010-11. In July 2012, the Guardian revealed that almost 300 shovel-ready flood defence projects which had been in line for funding had not been built due to budget cuts.
So the obvious question is why, in the face of expert opinions from many different sources, did the government not ensure there were sufficient resources which could have prevented the recent devastation of the farming community in some areas of the country, and the considerable damage to communities which were unnecessarily flooded?
Perhaps the answer is simply because there is a culture of collective stupidity and incompetence.
Rather than looking ahead to assess the right course of action to ensure the safety and security of the people, the government have pushed ahead with cutting everything it can which is of no financial interest to its members or cronies.
It’s not as though extensive heavy rain and flooding could not be considered reasonably likely. During previous years, there has been a gradually increasing risk of serious flooding across the country – something which numerous experts in their fields have warned of.
Perhaps Cameron and his cronies were hoping this would not come back to bite them before they get kicked out of government at the next election. But it has, and is yet another demonstration of how incompetent the current government is.
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