The Environment Agency will have to resort to pumps and temporary flood barriers to ensure thousands of homes are protected this winter, it has been revealed.
According to the National Audit Office,
the Government awarded the Environment Agency £120m extra funding to repair [last year’s] damage, but the Agency will only complete 80 per cent of the work before the end of this year.
one in five damaged flood defences will not be repaired in time for this winter’s stormy weather.
Oh, I know. There’s been a huge crisis to do with a pandemic disease called Covid-19 since the last floods, and it has been taking all the cash that’s available and slowing down maintenance work such as this.
That would be a good excuse.
But the simple fact is that successive Tory governments have had more than six years to stop our homes from flooding and they simply couldn’t be bothered.
To them, it’s a waste of money to take preventative action – even though the cost of fixing the damage is, cumulatively, far more.
I explained the problem in This Site, waaaaaaay back in 2014 [boldings mine, at time of writing this]:
This is a result of bad planning – by water and sewerage companies that have failed to implement successful drainage schemes or to divert floodwater from rivers in order to prevent overflow, and by planning authorities that have allowed housing to be built in the wrong place.
We live in a country where management of the water supply went into private hands several decades ago. When that happened, it became impossible to have any kind of integrated plan to deal with the supply of water, droughts, floods and storage. Water supply became a commodity to be bought and sold by rich people according to the golden rules of capitalism: Invest the minimum; charge the maximum.
So reservoirs have been sold off to foreign water companies, meaning we have no adequate response to droughts. None have been built, meaning we have no adequate response to floods. Concerns about river flooding have been neglected. There has not been the investment in extraction and storage of floodwater that repeated incidents over the last few years have demanded.
The government is reducing its budget for handling these issues. Not only that, but it is delaying implementation of a new policy on drainage.
In short, there is no joined-up thinking.
There will be no joined-up thinking in the future, either – unless the situation is changed radically.
Meanwhile, the cost racked up by the damage is huge – in ruined farmland, in ruined homes and possessions, and blighted lives. And what about the risk of disease that floodwater brings with it? The NHS in England is ill-equipped to deal with any outbreaks, being seriously weakened by the government-sponsored incursions of private, cheap-and-simple health firms.
Something has to give beneath the weight of all this floodwater. Change is vital – from commercial competition to co-operation and co-ordination.
Privatisation of water has failed. It’s time to bring it back under public control.
Is anyone opposed?
It turns out that a majority were not. Reversing the privatisation of water and restoring a joined-up policy is supported by most of the UK’s voting population, according to polls.
But millions of people voted Conservative at the ballot box so water has remained in private hands and the government has refused to stump up the cash to pay for what has become an annual – and therefore predictable – disaster.
The Environment Agency reckons it has a strategy to “build up the resilience of millions more homes and businesses” in the coming years.
What happens if the Tories strip away the funding for it?
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