As I dragged myself from my bed this morning, after the carnage that was the FOREST-sponsored dinner at the Savoy this morning, I wondered what on earth I could compose for 18 Doughty Street this morning. Luckily, a topic leapt out at me, top of the BBC News page.
“Three people have died and thousands have been forced from their homes after severe flooding hit England and Wales.
About 900 people are using emergency shelters in Sheffield, and dozens more were evacuated across Lincolnshire, Shropshire and Nottinghamshire.”
These floods—and the accompanying homelessness, damage and loss of life—are, of course, a terrible event but what makes them even more unpalatable is that they were preventable.
The current issue of Private Eye highlights the underfunding of the flood defences by the government. In 2004, the National Assessment of Defence Needs and Cost for Flood and Coastal Erosion Management pointed out that funding plans fell short by £700 million over the next ten years.
Last week, the NAO produced a report showing that the Environment Agency had not met its targets and that 63% of England's flood defences were inadequate. In fact, the agency says that it needs another £150 million a year, from the government, to meet the targets.
So what? It's hardly a surprise is it? Gordon Brown, the Gobblin' King, has been spending our money like water on his pet projects, whilst other necessary projects have been neglected. But it gets worse than that.
The Environment Agency's budget is controlled by DEFRA (David Miliband's department) which has had its woes recently. The biggest problem it has had is over the Rural Farm Payments shambles; its failure to pay out the money within the allotted timeframe has incurred massive fines from Brussels.
These fines are currently running at £350 million and, even worse, Brown has absolutely refused to find the money from the Treasury coffers and has demanded that DEFRA find it from their own budget. This can mean only one thing: cuts.
Sure enough, DEFRA looked around to see where it could make savings; and the Environment Agency was one of the first to feel the pinch. £15 million has been cut from its budget which was already, as highlighted by the agency and the NAO, far too low to start with.
As a result, projects have had to be put on hold and flood defences neglected. And, sure enough, we now see the inevitable consequences of this policy; huge insurance costs, wrecked homes and dead people.
No doubt, in casting around for something else to blame, David Miliband will make dire prognostications concerning “climate change”, but make no mistake: these deaths are a direct result of DEFRA's incompetence and poor government spending priorities.
Cross-posted at 18DoughtyStreet.