Flood Risk Management in England - Public Accounts Committee Contents

2  Managing flood protection

8. Flood risk features on the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies along with events such as pandemic human diseases and cyber-attacks. Although this is a national risk the Department did not accept ultimate accountability for the management of this risk and told us it was a shared responsibility with the Agency and local bodies.[14]

9. Under the new 'partnership' funding arrangements central and local government are jointly responsible for funding flood protection schemes. It was unclear which of these bodies was ultimately accountable for decision-making or for ensuring value for money.[15] The Department accepted responsibility for the money that was contributed centrally and looked to work with local authorities, through regional committees, to ensure that value for money was achieved.[16]

10. The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 set out that each lead authority should publish a register of all flood defences in their area as well as a local risk assessment and strategy for managing risk. However, the Department has no formal mechanism for monitoring the quality of flood risk assessments developed by local bodies. [17]

11. Similarly, the Department has no formal mechanisms for monitoring the quality of local flood risk management plans. Instead it relies on informal and ad-hoc intelligence. The Department has no formal intervention policies or powers and it was not clear how the Department would know if an authority was failing until it was too late. [18]

12. While the Department is keen to devolve responsibility for flood protection decision-making and fund raising to local institutions, the Department and the Agency have given less attention to how to secure the meaningful engagement of local communities and other organisations, such as Internal Drainage Boards. On occasions the Agency's in-house technical expertise has not commanded local confidence.[19]

13. The Agency has embarked on a change programme that will see a reduction in its staff numbers by around 800 full-time equivalent posts by 2014-15. In undertaking this it needs to ensure that it retains the appropriate skills and expertise to engage effectively with local communities in the future. [20]

14. A key concern of local communities at risk from flooding is that they will continue to be able to obtain appropriate flood risk insurance cover that is affordable.[21] The Department and the Agency told us they do not monitor the costs of insurance cover.[22] However, a statement of principles is in place with the insurance industry to make sure that insurance is available. The current agreement ends in 2013 and the Department has not yet completed negotiations with the insurance industry to ensure that the statement of principles will continue beyond then. [23]

14   Qq 34-35, 39, 42 Back

15   Qq 36-39, 42, 44 Back

16   Qq 126, 128 Back

17   Qq 130, 132-134 Back

18   Qq 131, 135 Back

19   Qq 46, 72-74, 93, 94, 101 Back

20   C&AG's report, para 5.8 Back

21   Q 108 Back

22   Q 119 Back

23   Q 109, C&AG's report - Footnote 3, page 12 Back

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Prepared 31 January 2012