Ministers clarify flood defence spending figures

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The government has been forced to clarify its claim to be spending more on flood defences than ever before.

Floods minister Dan Rogerson has admitted "some minor inconsistencies" in figures provided, adding that they have now been "rectified".

The amount of flood spending will reach a new high - but that is only if the government counts partnership funding from local councils.

Labour called the government's clarification "humiliating".

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has been under pressure on the issue after he repeatedly insisted that the coalition was spending money at a record level, a claim also made by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Paterson's deputy Mr Rogerson has published a clarification, saying: "Floods funding is complex, with a number of different income streams including government funding, local levies, and other contributions towards schemes.

"Further analysis has identified some minor inconsistencies in figures previously provided. I regret this was not presented in a consistent way, something I have now rectified."

The clarified figures confirm that, without the partnership funding, the government is spending £2.341 billion in the current spending review (2011-15), compared with £2.371 billion spent in 2007-11.

Only if ministers include a further £148m in partnership funding can the government claim it is spending more than Labour on floods.

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said: "It is humiliating for David Cameron and Owen Paterson that they have finally been forced to reveal that spending on flood protection was not protected when cuts to the Environment Department's budget were made.

"The prime minister must now stop repeating his misleading claim that more is being spent when these new figures reveal that is simply not true."

The disparity was pointed out by Friends of the Earth's Climate Campaigner Guy Shrubsole.

He said the corrected figures were "humiliating for both Paterson and Cameron who have been trumpeting how the government has increased spending on flood defences when the reality is that the budget's been cut".

Mr Shrubsole added: "The new figures raise difficult questions about the misleading information that the prime minister and environment secretary have provided to soothe both Parliament and the public.

"With millions of homes and business at risk from flooding they need to increase the budget and tackle the causes of climate change, which will increase the likelihood of more flooding."

A spokesman for Mr Paterson said: "The corrections do not change the headline figure which is that we are currently spending £2.3bn and that along with the £148m of contributions from partners this is more than was spent in the previous spending review period."

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

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