Parliament tells Government to think again on Flood Funding

Parliament's Rural Affairs and Environment Committee has unanimously told the government to think again about changes to its flood and coast protection funding policy, following scrutiny of their budget plans.

In a rare moment of cross party unity about the SNP's budget plans, the SNP members of the Committee joined Labour, Liberals and the Tories in telling the Scottish Government it needed to reconsider its planned policy changes.

Peter Peacock, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands who has been raising serious questions about the change in policy planned by the government, said:

"The fact the Committee has made a unanimous recommendation I hope will weigh heavily with the government and they can get themselves off the hook of their own making by reconsidering their policy."

The government planned to scrap their budget for supporting local authorities with the high costs of building flood and coast protection schemes.

Councils currently can apply for 80% of the cost of approved schemes and when they had completed their scheme another local authority would then benefit.

In future the funding would have to be found from within a council's annual budget allocation from government.

The Rural Affairs Committee has said in its report,

"Flood management schemes can be extremely expensive and individual authorities' annual shares of a national budget allocation might not be sufficient to fund the schemes needed in their areas.

"The committee has considerable concerns about how large-scale strategic flood management schemes will be funded under these arrangements." [Para 40, Page 9]

They further say,

"On the basis of these concerns and in the light of the major inquiry into flooding the Committee has instituted, the forthcoming introduction of a bill on flooding and coast protection policy and administration and the recent publication of the Pitt Report, the Committee invites the Scottish Government to reconsider making such a fundamental change in funding policy at this time." [Para 43, page 10]

Peter Peacock concluded:

"I have been concerned that councils like Moray, Highland and the Western Isles were now being asked to fund all their flood and coast protection work from within their annual budget allocation.

"Spending to protect people and properties is vital and the current funding allows major schemes to be undertaken by councils with a relatively small population and big flooding problems, then the money moves round to fund the next scheme.

"It works and it is folly to change it without guarantees the new arrangements will work as well.

"On that issue the committee has not been convinced the government has got it right."

Extract from Committee Report >>>


17 January 2008

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