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Flood defence funding to deprived areas has ‘reduced substantially’

THE share of flood defence funding going to deprived areas has “reduced substantially” in recent years, the National Audit Office (NAO) warns in a report published today.

According to the report, the Environment Agency is on track to meet targets to better protect 300,000 homes from flooding over six years within its £2.6 billion budget.

However, that does not represent “the full picture,” the NAO said,  arguing that the number of homes better protected is not a good measure of tackling overall flood risk, as it excludes other buildings, agricultural land and infrastructure.

Such a focus also fails to take into account the homes that are now more at risk due to housing development, climate change and the state of flood defences, leading to estimates that there are only 50,000 fewer properties at risk compared with 2016.

And people in poorer parts of England are at higher risk of flooding than others, but the proportion of money for defences going to the 20 per cent most deprived areas has fallen substantially since 2014.

The share of investment going to such areas rose from 4 per cent in 2011 to 29 per cent in 2014, but then fell again to 8 per cent in 2019, the report found.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) believes that the decline stems from most of the available schemes in deprived areas being completed, but it has not carried out analysis to support this, the NAO said.

Labour’s Meg Hillier, who chairs the parliamentary public accounts committee, said: “Defra has largely left the agency to its own devices. 

“It should have done more to make sure poorer areas, where more people are at risk of flooding, get a fair share of the available funding.”

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