More flood defence spending in England and Wales urged

Flood sign
Image caption Defra said it was working on long-term projects to protect homes and businesses

Flood defence spending is still not high enough in England and Wales to combat the risk of water invading people's homes, MPs have said.

The amount spent on defences should rise by £20m year on year over the next 25 years, the committee of MPs said.

It said spending was not "keeping pace" with the risk of more severe weather.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that from 2015 it would spend £370m on new UK-wide defences, rising to over £400m in 2021.

Ministers have also reached an agreement with the Association of British Insurers guaranteeing affordable flood insurance for people in high-risk areas.

But MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs committee (Efra) said ministers should be attracting much more private funding into defences.

They warned that there was a risk to food production because farmland was not properly protected from rising waters.

And they complained it was short-sighted to keep up spending on building new flood defences while allowing maintenance spending for flood defences and watercourses to fall.

Chairwoman Anne McIntosh said: "Record rainfall in the past two years has led to extensive flooding, cost the economy millions and caused disruption and distress to householders and communities across the UK.

"Additional capital funding for flood defences is welcome since every £1 spent on flood defences delivers economic benefits worth £8.

"But spending on flood defences has not kept pace with rising risks from more frequent severe weather.

"The chancellor must ensure that investment increases by £20m year on year. We need that money over the next 25 years to protect homes and businesses better. Maintenance of these defences and effective dredging of watercourses must be a priority."

The committee has also warned that home insurance premiums for all households could go up to subsidise the insurance costs of those who live in flood-risk areas.

Last week, the government said it had reached the principles of a deal with the insurance industry to cap the amount which most flood-risk householders would be charged for a home insurance policy.

But the committee said current estimates suggested that, on average, that would add about £10.50 a year to each customer's bill.

Ms McIntosh told BBC News: "We were told it would be in the region of £3 for contents insurance, £5 for building insurance - but that has already gone up from £8 to £10.50 and our concern is that, over the next two years, that might rise further."

A Defra spokeswoman said: "Flooding is terrible for those affected, which is why we're working on long-term projects to protect people's homes and businesses."

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