The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer) and I would like to update the House on our progress with the national flood resilience review.
Last year the UK was hit by a number of extreme flood events, including in Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lancashire. Record rainfall and river levels have led to widespread floods severely affecting cities, communities and businesses.
The magnitude of these events means that we need to fully understand the scale of risk that the country is currently facing from river and coastal flooding. We need to take immediate steps to improve our resilience to this flooding.
As a result, the Government set up the national flood resilience review, chaired by the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin) and overseen by a cross-government national flood resilience review group. That review is being published today, setting out the actions to improve the nation’s resilience.
By using new plausible extreme rainfall scenarios developed by the Met Office in the Environment Agency’s flood modelling, we are now confident that the extreme flood outlines can be used as a robust planning tool for assessing flood risk.
As part of the review we completed a preliminary assessment of the resilience of key local infrastructure, such as energy, water, health, transport and telecommunications to flooding from rivers and seas. These are services our communities and businesses depend on.
The results showed around 530 facilities vulnerable to river and coastal flooding which could impact significant local communities. Working with the relevant utilities, regulators and Government Departments, a number of areas have been identified to improve resilience planning for this infrastructure. By Christmas 2016, the water and telecoms sectors will develop and implement plans for where temporary improvements can be made to the flood resilience of their infrastructure. These plans will ensure that the utilities obtain stock-piles of temporary defences in advance and have site-specific plans ready to deploy where they can be used. This is in line with current practice in the electricity supply industry.
In addition to these temporary defences all sectors with infrastructure at risk have agreed to develop and implement plans—where not already in place—to make medium-term permanent improvements to the flood resilience of their services to significant local communities.
While better understanding the risk helps us better prepare and protect infrastructure, effective response when flooding occurs is essential to minimise impact and protect lives. The review sets out actions that the Government and others will be taking to improve the response to flooding incidents by delivering a long-term rolling programme of improvements to our modelling, improving working across services and with local communities to strengthen our response, and improving our communication of flood risks.
The Government have prioritised investment in maintaining and improving flood defences in England with a record £2.3 billion six-year commitment to 1,500 schemes. This is set to better protect 300,000 homes and provide £30 billion in economic benefits by 2021.
On top of that, in this year’s Budget, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a £700 million increase in flood defence and resilience spending, including a further £150 million for new flood defence schemes in Cumbria and Yorkshire. He also signalled that part of this funding would be used to respond to this review.
The findings published today commit an investment of £12.5 million to increase the Environment Agency’s stock of temporary flood defences and other incident response equipment.
The work identified in the review is continuing, including with local resilience forums. Additional funding support will be considered as further findings emerge.
Copies of the review have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.