Government urged to change flood bill on funding

15 January 2009

The Scottish Government is being urged to make significant changes to its flood management Bill by one of Parliament's Committees in order to make the funding for flood measures much clearer and firmer.

If accepted this could have significant implications for flood funding in Elgin, the Western Isles and Caol near Fort William.

In an inquiry report into flooding during last year the same Parliament Committee, for rural affairs and the environment, made similar and clear funding recommendations which the Government declined to accept at the time.

However, these requests have been unanimously repeated and strengthened in light of evidence they received on worries about funding during evidence on the Flood Bill's provisions.

The Committee have added to their earlier recommendations by asking that SEPA be required to produce a national "strategic assessment" of flood risks across Scotland, prioritise and cost the funding needs, and that Ministers "have regard" to that strategic assessment in decisions on funding allocations to councils and others.

The Committee have also said they are "extremely concerned" that a lack of funding could seriously stifle effective implementation of better flood management and have urged Ministers to reconsider their decision not to provide targeted funding to local authorities for specific flood protection schemes.

The Committee have also recommended the government place a requirement on local authorities on the implementation of flood risk plans by asking they bring forward further amendments to the Bill.

Commenting on the Committee recommendations, Committee member Peter Peacock, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands said:

"The Bill is mostly common sense and makes important changes in how flood risk management and flood protection can be speeded up and improved and we will be supporting the principles of the Bill.

"However, there are areas where we believe the Bill can be strengthened and the Committee have maintained some tough recommendations about the funding of flood measures and the need for local authorities to address implementing local flood management plans.

"I am only too well aware of the needs of communities like Elgin, which has been left in a near impossible position over the funding of the massive flood protection works they need, following Scottish Government changes to the funding rules last year.

"The Council's own Director of Finance has said the Council now faces real 'uncertainty' over their ability to proceed and fund the much needed works since the government changed the rules on funding Councils.

"I very much regret that after the Committee previously recommended better funding arrangements the government didn't accept those fully.

"The Scottish Government now has another chance to improve funding and thus help give towns like Elgin more of the certainty they need over future funding.

"The changes recommended will not only help Elgin, they will also help communities like the Western Isles who face massive bills protecting the Uists, following the huge storms that can cause coastal inundation. Communities like Caol near Fort William also need help, as do many other communities the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands.

"I am pleased that Committee is united across the Parties in making the recommendations, as this adds to the case for the government to take them seriously."

Parliament will debate the Committee's report on the Flooding Bill in Parliament next week.

 

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