Whilst the floods in the UK continue, they are the only political topic in town. Nothing else really matters. With predictions now coming that some floodwater will not subside until the summer it could be 150 days from the start of the flooding of parts of the Somerset levels to the end. Politicians have immediately rushed out to the affected areas.
With a typhoon predicted to make landfall in Wales this week and the Thames Valley set for further rises in the water level the crisis has certainly not yet reached its nadir. There has, understandably given the sheer scale and inexorable nature of the crisis, been a great deal of confusion. At first it seemed that a blame game had started when over the weekend the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP attacked the Chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith, for mishandling the floods.
As the Telegraph’s Ben Brogan has explained, Cameron and Osborne are apoplectic with Eric Pickles. Having seen the floods story flowing the wrong way, the Government thought it could pin the blame on the man running the Environment agency. Brogan says that when Lord Smith started pushing back with some sharp elbows Downing Street got twitchy, worrying that it had gone too far. Perhaps they were concerned that Chris Smith, a former Labour Minister, might bring Defra’s cuts to the Environment Agency into the limelight.
In the emergency Comprehensive Spending Review of 2010 the funding cuts to the EA were stark. Spending on flood management fell significantly, dropping 17 per cent in 2011-12 – from £629m to £520.8m. By 2014-15 the annual budget will have fallen 23 per cent compared with 2010-11, dropping to £485.2m. Those who took a close look at the flood plans might see that the cuts could have a perennial impact on those who live near rivers. The further question is whether this disaster, which affects so many, will have a terminal impact on the Government.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
Latest posts by Jake Rigg (see all)
- Keene responds to the Budget - July 8, 2015
- The Northern Powerhouse & Pre-Budget Briefing - July 6, 2015
- The emergence of a green superpower on the back of G7 climate deal - June 16, 2015