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Benn responds to Pitt floods review

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The government has revealed its long-expected proposals to give local authorities a lead role on flooding in the wake of the Pitt review.

But Hilary Benn confirmed the sector’s worst fears about the funding that would be available.

The secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs said councils would be made responsible for ensuring that arrangements were in place to manage local flooding risks from all sources.

Mr Benn told the House of Commons that county councils would bear the responsibility in two-tier areas, but that close working with districts would be encouraged.

“I am increasing funding to local authorities by£15m to allow authorities where the risk is greatest to take on this new role straight away,” he said.

Paul Bettison (Con), chair of the Local Government Association’s environment board, said that while the new duty to co-operate was a step forward, the additional funding - to be allocated by 2011 - would not be enough to ensure that flood-prone areas were properly protected.

“More than half of all councils have told the LGA that they do not have sufficient resources to deal with flooding, and their budgets are set to come under further pressure in the coming months,” he said.

“The 2007 floods caused untold misery for thousands of people and cost the country around£3bn.

“Investment now will save the taxpayer more in the future.

“More extreme weather is an unavoidable consequence of climate change, so it is imperative that we ensure the country is ready to cope.”

Sir Michael Pitt made 92 recommendations in his report on the summer floods of 2007, which was published in June this year.

In his announcement, Mr Benn said that Kingston Upon Hull City Council, Gloucestershire CC, Leeds City Council, Warrington BC, Richmond Upon Thames LBC and West Berkshire Council were the first authorities to have successfully bid for funding to pay for surface-water management plans.

He added that a£5m grant scheme would also be established for councils to help people better protect their homes from the risk of flooding.

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