Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee publish report into flood inquiry

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published a report urging the government to tackle the challenges of providing adequate flood protection and maintaining clean and affordable water supplies.

The committee's report of its inquiry into Future Flood and Water Management Legislation was published today.

Committee chairman Anne McIntosh MP said “Urgent action is needed to ensure we all continue to have access to clean, reliable and affordable water supplies and that our communities are adequately and effectively protected from flooding. Legislation required to implement the Government’s full suite of flood and water management policies must be in place as soon as possible.”

MPs are concerned that the government has cut flood defence funding and will require communities to pay a greater contribution towards flood defences. At a time of budgetary constraint, the committee believes there is no certainty that this funding gap can be filled.

The report tells ministers they must:

• Spell out how the government will deliver its pledge to focus public money for flood defence on those communities at greatest risk and least able to protect themselves

• Ensure adequate and stable funding for local authorities and other agencies given new responsibilities under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to plan for and respond to flood events.

McIntosh added: “At a time of budgetary constraints councils must give flood protection work priority since many of them will need to increase the financial contribution they make to key local flood defence projects whilst also fulfilling their new duties to lead local flood work.”

The report also calls on the government to sharpen the regulatory framework for the water industry to ensure it places customers’ views at the heart of a future strategy that will deliver improved affordability and water efficiency. To that end MPs call for ministers to:

• Clarify the role for social tariffs in helping those who have difficulty paying their water bills while ensuring fairness to all customers

• Implement a solution that brings down bills for customers in regions, such as South West England, where water charges are at present disproportionately high due to the need for large-scale capital investment in sewage systems. There are several options, including a national social tariff which is weighted to recognise the substantial regional variance in bills

• Publish a strategy to implement a wider programme of metering and variable tariffs designed to improve water efficiency while protecting those on low incomes from unaffordable price rises.