Benn boosts flood defence budget

The government has designated a further £200 million to boost flood defences and improve risk management after the north of England was hit by flash floods.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn told the Commons yesterday a budget of £800 million has been agreed for the Environment Agency for 2010-11, an increase of £200 million.

This satisfies the agency’s demands after it warned it needs £750 million a year to provide an effective programme. In recent years, spending on flood defences had been cut to just £500 million.

Mr Benn told the Commons that last week’s floods had caused damage to 27,000 homes and 5,000 businesses, with an estimated clean-up cost of £1 billion.

He warned the floods will have a “continuing impact for some months to come” and more than 300 people are still in emergency shelters.

The Association of British Insurers welcomed confirmation of increased funding.

Director general Stephen Haddrill said: “The government has said that it will stand by its side of the deal; today’s announcement is the news that homeowners have wanted to hear.

“This work is urgent and the investment should begin today. Let’s get on with it and start now.”

The environment secretary confirmed Gordon Brown had appointed communities minister John Healey to coordinate government support for local councils and agencies involved in the clean up.

Efforts will need to be coordinated across a large swath of northern England after rivers burst their banks in Yorkshire, Humberside, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

The Met Office has dropped its severe weather warning but forecast at least ten more days of unsettled weather and three severe flood warnings remain in place.

Despite the severe flooding, the public remain unconvinced about climate change, according to the latest opinion poll.

An Ipsos Mori poll found many do not think climate change is as big a threat as scientists and politicians warn and are more concerned about terrorism, crime, graffiti and even dog mess.