Thursday, 10 March 2016

"The governance of flooding in Britain is a mess............. Local authorities face the fury of locals, but in reality can do little to help."

Dr Ewan Woodley's talk earlier this week looked at the management of the effects of extreme weather - and how communities will be expected to carry much of this out:
Futures Forum: Climate Week in Sidmouth: Dr Ewan Woodley and how communities will have to manage flooding and the effects of extreme weather

To some extent it is about which body should be responsible for the management of which resources:
Institutional Failure in Resource Management - Annual Review of Anthropology, 35(1):117

To a greater extent it is about NGOs, the voluntary sector and local community groups taking on more responsibilities:

Interestingly, the Telegraph ran a piece asking why the management of the effects of extreme weather is not working:

The governance of flooding in Britain is a mess

Local authorities face the fury of locals, but in reality can do little to help





United Kingdom. Severe flooding has affected large parts of northern England, with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as rivers burst their banks. More heavy rain is forecast as dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place.
Inundated vehicles as water begins to recede in the Huntington Road area of York after the River Foss burst its banks Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
As the full impact of this winters floods becomes clearer, local authorities are putting their plans into action and helping their communities to cope. Councils will rightly be expected to provide shelter for those made homeless, inform householders about support, reopen roads and work hand-in-hand with the emergency services. In addition, local authorities are responsible for local planning, housing and social care. Therefore, it is surprising to many that they only control 8 per cent of the total amount spent on flooding while a jumble of other local and national organisations control the rest.
"During a flood, attention is focused on the Environment Agency but before, during and particularly after a flood it is the local authority that is the front line service"
The governance of flooding in England and Wales is a mess. Different bodies are responsible depending on whether the flooding is from a large river, a small river, a ditch, groundwater or heavy rain. To add to the complexity water doesn’t stand still and can flow into several different jurisdictions in one afternoon. So, floodwater may start in a farmer’s field, cross a road which is the responsibility of the Highways Agency, enter a culvert owned by a water company into a main river which is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, then join a flooded city centre caused by heavy rain and therefore the responsibility of the local authority.
The households and communities looking for support do not care what type of flooding is affecting their homes and businesses, they just need help. During a flood, attention is focused on the emergency services and the Environment Agency but before, during and particularly after a flood it is the local authority that is the front line service.

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) runs the Local Government Flood Forum and its members have been calling for greater devolution of responsibility and resources for flooding to local authorities. Only at the local level can there be a meaningful joining up of the different services that contribute to successful flood management. The planning system if more locally autonomous could robustly resist developments on floodplains and prevent green spaces being covered in impermeable surfaces. The local community could be more involved in decision making and only at the local authority level can the social care services link into public health, housing and transport.
There are abundant examples of local authorities helping their communities prepare for floods. For example, in Greater Manchester the local authorities cooperate to share expertise and run their own community forums to identify the views of the local communities. In Oxfordshire 60 per cent of Parish Councils have Parish Flood Plans.
Local Authorities across the country have been setting up community pathfinder projects that help establish local flood action groups made up of volunteer wardens who provide early warning alerts to vulnerable people in their communities. All large local authorities have their own flood strategy.
"Rather than rely upon geographical luck, local authorities should be given responsibility for the flood budget in their area"
There has been much fanfare around recent government plans for devolution. The LGiU is aware that several local authorities have asked for flood management budgets to be devolved from the Environment Agency to them but so far no "deal" has included this.
The Government is right to state that they apply a funding formula for flooding that does not distinguish between the North and the South. However, the core pot of flood infrastructure funding is only a small part of the cost of a flood defence. The rest has to come from other infrastructure funds, businesses, local donations and council reserves. It is when these other funds are taken into account that a North/South split becomes evident. For example, London is able to draw on the funds of the Mayor's office.
Rather than rely upon geographical luck to ensure funds are spent properly, the LGiU advocates that all large local authorities be given responsibility for the flood budget in their area and cooperate with other local authorities to ensure that floods are prevented, people are helped during floods and that recovery from flooding is as swift and as painless as possible.


Six years of extreme UK weather

Picture: Stuart McMahon


Hottest July day
since records began: 36.7°C at Heathrow airport on 1 July
Hottest November day
since records began: 22.4°C at Trawsgoed, Wales on 1 November
Hottest November night
since 2005: 16.1C in Murlough, Co. Down
Coldest July day
in 21 years: parts of Scotland reached 1°C on the 19th July  
Shaping up to be:
the UK's windiest year. 2015 is on track to surpass 1995's record of 22 calm days


Picture: Lewis Harrison-Pinder / SWNS.com
Wettest winter
since records began in 1766, with 435mm of precipitation 
Stormiest winter
in more than 20 years, with at least 12 major winter storms
Hottest year ever
at a mean temperature of 9.9°C, although 2015 may beat this


Coldest March
ever recorded in the UK - a temperature of 2.2°C


Picture: Getty
Wettest summer
in more than a century
Second-wettest year on record
1,330.7mm of average rainfall puts this year just 6.6mm below the record set in 2000
Warmest March
in more than 50 years


Hottest October day
in 100 years, as Gravesend experiences a balmy 29.9°C
Hottest April
since records began - at 10.7°C


Coldest December
since 1890. Average UK temperature of -0.7°C, although parts of Scotland were far colder at -21.3°C
Second-warmest year
ever recorded (2014 is so far the warmest)


Rainiest day ever recorded,
in Seathwaite, Cumbria. The same early-November storm also holds records for the highest two-day, three-day and four-day rainfall!

The governance of flooding in Britain is a mess - Telegraph

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