Posted: Thursday 25th June 2015

Leading engineers have urged Government to “act with caution” when making spending cuts in areas such as flood risk management, that could impact on the resilience of the UK and its infrastructure networks.

In its submission to HMT ahead of the July Budget, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) warned that proposed public spending cuts threaten many of the Government departments responsible for the delivery and maintenance of infrastructure - at a time when Government should be reaffirming its commitment to infrastructure sitting at the heart of its economic plans.

It raised particular concern around the axe falling on the 6 year £2.3bn investment plan for new flood defences, which is unprotected. Flood schemes are also vulnerable from potential cuts to Local Authority budgets. Government only part funds flood schemes - Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFA’s) must generate the additional investment and where the partnership funding leveraged is insufficient, Local Authorities have to plug the gap from their already stretched budgets.

ICE called on Government to use the Budget to demonstrate its commitment to building the UK’s resilience - locking in the £2.3bn investment for new flood defences, matching it with a 6 year investment programme for maintaining existing flood defences, and avoiding further cuts to Local Authority budgets. It also urged Government to work more closely with LLFA’s to target flood spend where it is needed most.

ICE Director General, Nick Baveystock, said: “We are at a critical time – the dust has now settled and Government knows it must restore momentum, building on the solid foundations laid since 2010 and demonstrating its commitment to infrastructure as a catalyst for rebalanced growth, productivity and improved resilience.

“When public spending is tight, we know tough decisions must be made, but we hope Government acts with caution when it comes to spending cuts that could affect infrastructure delivery or impact on the progress made. The UK’s resilience, in particular, should not hang in the balance.

“Resilience cannot be achieved through one-off cash injections to repair flood defences or patch up roads following extreme weather. It is a long term challenge which demands long term thinking. 5.2million properties are at risk of flooding in England alone, with annual flood damage costs in the region of £1.1billion. It has been estimated that maintaining existing levels of flood defence would require flood defence spend to increase to over £1billion per year by 2035.

“The upcoming Budget presents an opportunity for Government to make a clear statement about its commitment to building the UK’s resilience, and ensuring we are fit to face future challenges. ICE stands ready to work with Government on this.”

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