Cameron pledges £40m to bolster 'overwhelmed' flood defences
Extra spending comes after claims of 'full-level mismanagement' at Environment Agency
David Cameron has pledged an extra £40m to reinforce the UK's flood defences after admitting they were "overwhelmed" by record rainfall which left swathes of northern England and Scotland under water over the Christmas season.
The floods have brought disruption to thousands of homes over the last month, with Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and central Scotland worst affected by swelling waters which swallowed up bridges, swamped homes and cut off power. The latest in a series of storms to batter the nation, Storm Frank, proved deadly - claiming the lives of a canoeist and a kayaker in separate incidents in Scotland. Elsewhere, hundreds were evacuated from their homes as waters rose, and the army was called in to supervise the response to the flooding. Extreme weather is estimated to have caused hundreds of millions of pounds of damage to homes, businesses and local infrastructure in Cumbria alone, ABC News reports.
Opposition MPs have denounced Cameron's promise of bonus funding as a "short-term fix". A growing political fall-out is facing the Conservative government, after it emerged that ministers were notified in November that spending cuts had adversely affected flood defences. Despite warnings that not enough money was being spent on the day-to-day maintenance of equipment, local government funding for flood services was reportedly cut in parts of the north-east of England. Similar funds were still being allocated to vulnerable areas in the south-west, provoking complaints of a southern bias.
Meanwhile, a Sunday Times investigation has alleged "full-level mismanagement and fat cat pay" at the Environment Agency after its PR chief quit with a six-figure pay-off. Other executives were paid large sums even after having resigned, the paper said. The paper also revealed that a cabinet committee set up by David Cameron after similar floods in 2013 was dissolved after just three meetings. The committee, chaired by Oliver Letwin, also failed to publish a scheduled report on the resilience of Britain's flood defences.