Flood defence funding of £120m announced

Flooding in Ruishton, near Taunton
Image caption Many parts of UK have been flooded after heavy storms in recent years

The government has announced £120m of funding for flood defences, as households across Britain contend with the aftermath of heavy storms.

Ministers estimate that the money, which will be delivered between next year and 2015, will improve flood protection for up to 60,000 homes.

It comes just days after about 800 UK homes were flooded in recent storms.

Labour said it shows how "shortsighted the government was to cut investment in flood defences by £95m a year".

Some £60m of the new funding would be targeted at areas where improving defences against flooding could unlock investment and growth in the area, ministers said.

And the rest would go to speed up delivery of up to 50 schemes already promised.

The government said the money was in addition to the £2bn being spent on flooding and coastal erosion in the spending period up to 2015.

However, ministers have faced criticism that they have cut flood defence spending at a time when their own advisers say a large funding boost is needed to help the UK cope with greater risk of flooding as the climate changes.

This summer, government climate advisers said flood defence spending is 12% below levels in the last spending review period,

It means a gap opened up of £860m between money pledged for 2011-15 and what is needed to maintain protection.

Ahead of a visit to see flood defences, Prime Minister David Cameron said flooding can have "a devastating effect on communities", adding: "I have also seen how flood defences can help protect people and property from being ravaged by flood water."

Announcing the funding, he said the money would "unlock up to £1bn of economic benefits".

But Mary Creagh, Labour's shadow environment secretary, said every £1 invested in flood defences saves £8 later and provides much needed construction work.

She added: "What a shame ministers have wasted two years looking for shovel-ready infrastructure projects while 294 flood schemes have been postponed or cancelled.

"Flooding is the biggest threat the UK faces from climate change, yet even after today's mini U-turn the government will still be spending less on flood defences next year than in 2008."

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