The government has rejected a public inquiry into recent dramatic flooding of Derwent Valley towns such as Malton and Norton - both inland sites - but says it is making£230m available for flood defence and coast protection. But small, rural authorities were given a hint they would get priority in allocation of money for flood and coastal defences.
Agriculture minister Elliot Morley told MPs the government was on target to meet objectives agreed with the Environment Agency in reviewing how information about potential flooding was provided - and on how planning should be aware of risks of flooding.
And he revealed: 'Yesterday I had a constructive meeting with the Local Government Association, the Association of Drainage Authorities and the Environment Agency to agree high-level targets for achieving progress in reviewing flood defence procedures. Those targets were agreed, and we are on course to review flood defence and coastal protection provisions in this country'.
He asked: 'Is the minister aware of the problems faced by smaller local authorities such as Charnwood and Melton, which have yearly budgets of only£5m?'
Mr Reed asked the government to consider providing financial assistance to those Leicestershire authorities to alleviate recurring problems. 'Every time it rains, many residents fear that their houses will be flooded again', he said.
Mr Morley said: 'Smaller local authorities face particular problems, especially where there are non-mains water courses and when different agencies have different responsibilities. I am prepared to look sympathetically...regarding the overall strategy and the way in which we prioritise schemes'.