Top economist slams Cameron for ignoring Labour’s 2007 flood defence review
THE Tories will have presided over a £1 billion nosedive in flood defence spending by 2021 after ignoring previous warnings, a top Labour economic adviser said yesterday.
Oxford University professor Simon Wren-Lewis, one of shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s team of economic experts, rang the alarm bell as floods continued to devastate northern England.
Following floods in 2007 the Labour government commissioned a review of defences and increased spending, which peaked in 2010-11.
But following the Tory-Liberal coalition victory in 2010, the government cut back and has continued to do so.
Prof Wren-Lewis said the deficit would reach £1bn by 2021.
“That is a huge spending gap created by the Conservatives. I still find it remarkable that no-one has held the government to account for this huge failure.
“That is despite all the flooding that has occurred since 2011, some of the damage from which must be the result of this missing spending,” he said.
“Yet the government continues to get away with talking about unprecedented rainfall, as if no-one had thought this might happen.”
Unions warned of much worse to come if the government continues with its planned attacks on spending, especially funding for the Environment Agency.
General union GMB said that the agency is due to meet in January to decide where the jobs axe will fall next — and called for the plans to be dropped following the weekend’s devastation.
“Flooding is currently costing at least £1 billion a year. Even if filling that spending gap had prevented only a small proportion of these current and future costs, it would have produced a handsome return, as well as avoiding a great deal of individual heartbreak,” said Prof Wren-Lewis.
GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “You would have thought David Cameron had learnt the lesson from the floods of 2013-14. Apparently not.
“GMB members at the Environment Agency still do not know what day-to-day revenue spending will be on maintenance of flood defences from 2016-17 onward.
“This is apart from the scrapping of hundreds of flood defence schemes due to cuts in spending.
“This month’s weather and flooding are yet another reminder of the foolhardy stupidity of the government making spending cuts to the Environment Agency.
“It is quite simply penny wise and pound foolish to make any cuts that affect any of the agency’s vital functions, or cut the jobs of those who carry them out.”
GMB called on the Environment Agency to abandon its plans to axe jobs and to instead demand more government funding.