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Paper  9 - 26 November 1999 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

26 November 1999

FUNDING FOR FLOOD DEFENCE ACTIVITIES

Report of the Chief Executive, Hart District Council

RECOMMENDATIONS

(1) That the Association notes with concern the increasing attempts by Government and its agencies to direct local authorities.

(2) Representations be made to the Environment Agency that all authorities be equitably funded to meet flood defence targets.

(3) That the officers consider the impact of the funding arrangements for flood defence on Member Authorities in advance of the meeting with the Environment Agency scheduled to take place in the New Year.

1. In May 1999 the Government announced interim high level targets for flood defence to secure the delivery of its flood defence aims and objectives. The Environment Agency was tasked with achieving them. In general the targets can be welcomed.

2. The Environment Agency Area Manager subsequently requested local authorities to survey all watercourses. The Environment Agency plans to follow this with a regime of "supervision by consent" from April 2000, which will entail authorities undertaking detailed assessments, exercises and management plans.

3. In May the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions jointly issued a consultation paper on the funding of additional flood defence. It stated that as actual flood defence expenditure is a specific component of local authorities' Standard Spending Assessments, increased expenditure by authorities would lead directly to increased SSAs and thus increased Revenue Support Grants, so that expenditure would not fall on Council Taxpayers. This consultation paper was issued to the Local Government Association but not individual authorities.

4. The consultation paper was fundamentally wrong. There are presently two councils in the country (Hart and East Dorset) who receive no RSG, because of their arbitrarily low SSA, and this number will rise as Council Tax is required to increase in real terms and Business Rate yield increases. As a result were these authorities to increase flood defence expenditure (and arguably they have the least resources with which to do so) they shall receive no compensatory RSG and the cost would fall on local taxpayers.

5. Enquiries to the Environment Agency about funding have been rebuffed as not the Agency's concern. Whilst their solicitor concedes that authorities do not have a duty, nevertheless liabilities can arise because local authorities have powers to undertake flood defence work.

6. Clearly flood defence can only be fully effective if it is undertaken to a consistent standard across a wide area. Hart would welcome the Association's and individual member councils' support in lobbying for equitable funding for flood defence activities for all authorities.

GRAHAME JELBART 
Chief Executive, Hart District Council

Last update: 13/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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