The prime minister surprised the Westminster press corps yesterday when he held a press conference to spell out his action to tackle flooding. It wasn’t just the press conference that surprised – it has been 238 days since his last at Downing Street – but what he said. He told reporters:
Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for, it will be spent.
He repeated that pledge at today’s PMQs, promising a string of spending measures to help relieve the burden on families and businesses. They include: Read more
My colleague Fiona Harvey has dug out the fact that an array of flood prevention schemes could soon be culled – despite claims by ministers pre-CSR that flood funding would be protected.
There could be “dozens” of flood measures among the casualties of the spending round including a £100m flood prevention scheme in Leeds.
Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for the environment, said on Wednesday that although the floods budget would be cut by 20 per cent much of this would be found through efficiencies. But Defra has since admitted that proposed flood defence projects would be cancelled, although it has not yet offered any details.
The budget for building new flood defences and upgrading existing defences has been reduced from an average of £335m a year to £261m a year for the next four years.
You could say this is unsurprising in the context of wider cuts to almost all parts of government. But it flies in the face of comments by ministers: such as Ms Spelman’s insistence during the summer that she would ensure the protection of vital spending on the key areas of animal health and flood prevention.