Government flood defense spending which fluctuates from year to year is putting communities and small businesses at risk, a new report from the House of Commons audit committee has argued.
The cross-party group of politicians who compiled the report highlighted the reactive nature of government flood defense spending, and raised doubts about the government’s target of protecting 300, 000 buildings with 2.3bn of spending. They also highlighted a lack of long term planning around how to manage flood risk.
In Calderdale alone, the damage to small and medium-sized businesses caused when Storm Desmond struck in December 2015 is estimated in the study to have cost firm owners almost 50m, with further indirect costs of over 170m.
many small businesses in parts of northern England, Scotland and Wales are still recovering from the devastating floods last Christmas. The damage that occurred in places like Cumbria and Leeds is a reminder of the critical role that flood defenses play, and highlights the problems when they don’t operate properly, said Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman Mike Cherry.
ministers need to put a proper, multi-agency strategy in place to manage the risks of flooding across the UK. Long term plans must ensure that homes and businesses are protected through a combination of flood defence schemes and strategic river management. We want to see ministers publish their flooding strategy to set out how government, local authorities and business can work together to make small businesses more flood resilient, he added.
The longer term impact of 2015’s storms has been to make it more difficult for small business owners to obtain flood insurance. In a submission to the committee producing the new report, academics at the University of Leeds highlighted that 60 per cent of business owners in the city are now unable to get a quote for flood insurance, while one-fifth of those who were able to do so could not afford cover.
if the government is serious about seeing these areas recover then concerns about lack of flood protection and affordability of insurance need to be addressed, wrote the report’s authors.