By Lana Clements
A report released today by a group of MPs shows the responsibility of protecting five million (one in six) English homes from flooding is being passed off from one group to another.
Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, says flood protection is a matter of national priority following evidence from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
But she notes: "It is unclear where the buck stops and who is ultimately responsible for managing the risk of flooding. It is not acceptable that local people should be left in doubt about where responsibility and accountability lie."
DEFRA says it is not ultimately responsible for flood protection and shares the responsibility with the Environment Agency and other local bodies.
However, the committee says local businesses and councils, under increased financial pressure, are unlikely to able to make further funds available and called DEFRA over-optimistic.
The committee says there is not enough money allocated to tackle the problem and maintain defences. There is also a question of who should be stumping up the cash in the long term. Currently flood damage costs the country £1.1 billion a year and is expected to rise because of ageing defences and climate change.
In response to the report, AA Insurance has called on the government to act now, before it's too late. The company says, unless decisive action is taken, later this year homes in flood-prone areas are going to find their homes hard to insure.
Simon Douglas, director of broker AA Insurance comments: "Homeowners expect the government to take a lead on this issue: they need some reassurance that they won’t be left unprotected."
This comes ahead of the expiration of an agreement between the government and insurers called the statement of principles. The agreement means insurers can't refuse to continue insuring homes on their book at risk of flooding, but it runs out next year. MP Margaret Hodge says a new agreement is needed urgently.