Some five million people in England are at risk of flooding. Winter 2015–16 broke rainfall records and Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank disrupted communities across northern parts of the UK. Storm Desmond alone cost the UK more than £5 billion. More frequent, more intense storms resulting from climate change will in future put more people at risk and increase flood impacts. The Government has increased budgets for flood risk management, but this level of funding is unlikely to deliver sufficient protection in future decades. The Government must publish by the end of 2017 its 25-year ambition for flood risk reduction, and the cost of securing this, against different climate change scenarios.
Current flood risk management structures are fragmented, inefficient and ineffective, and although there are many examples of successful local partnerships, current arrangements do not encourage widespread use of catchment scale approaches. The Government’s National Flood Resilience Review’s limited solutions will not rectify fundamental structural problems: we propose a new governance model which the Government must consider as part of a root and branch review of how it manages England’s flood risk. Our model gives a strong focus to joined-up, efficient action to improve flood protection by:
This model would streamline roles and pool capacity and expertise to allow bodies to deliver their unique roles, with funding firmly linked to outcomes. The Commissioner would hold the English Rivers and Coastal Authority to account on whether it spends its budgets in the most efficient manner, whether by directly undertaking work or by commissioning projects from catchment partnerships for example. The Regional Boards would enable a close link between national plans and local aims. We also propose an extension to current Water and Sewerage Companies’ roles: as Water and Drainage Companies their remit would include the land drainage responsibilities currently held by local authorities, fostering a more holistic approach to flooding and water supply management.
In advance of major reform, we make recommendations on specific flood management problems:
Catchment measures need to be adopted on a much wider scale:
Flood risk communications must be simplified: current descriptions of a ‘1 in x year’ flood risk are confusing to the public. The Environment Agency and the Met Office must develop clearer methods by the end of this year, including maps showing all sources of flooding in one place.
Resilience must be improved: it is impossible to protect all properties from flooding at all times so the Government must improve help for communities and individuals to cope with and recover from flooding:
1 KPMG estimated Storm Desmond costs to be in the range of £5–5.8 billion, 28 December 2015
28 October 2016