Ministers’ claims on flood funds ‘misleading’

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Government claims that it is spending more than ever before on flood defences have been labelled “misleading” after figures showed a reduction in funding from the Environment Department.

Updated figures from the Environment Department (Defra) show it is spending £2.34bn in the current four year spending review period (2011-2015) compared with £2.37bn spent in the previous four years (2007-2011).

Defra said spending was at record levels, once “partnership funding”, in which developers, businesses, local authorities and communities contribute towards paying for flood defences, was taken into account.

The department said it expected some £148m to be delivered from non-Government sources over the current spending review period.

But environmental campaigners said Ministers had misled Parliament and the public by claiming the Government was spending more on flood defences.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has claimed: “This Government is spending more on flood defences than any previous government.” And Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons earlier this month: “In this current four year period, we are spending £2.3bn, compared with £2.1bn in the previous period.”

It later emerged that the PM’s figure of £2.3bn was for the period 2010/11-2013/14, which includes the final year of the last Labour government’s financial commitments, when spending reached a high of £670m, and the £2.1bn was for 2006/7-2009/10.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: “Owen Paterson’s own department has now been forced to admit it has cut flood defence spending, despite claims to the contrary by the beleaguered Environment Secretary.

“On the basis of these figures, it appears both Mr Paterson and the Prime Minister have misled Parliament and the public.”