Did I hear wrong? I could have sworn I heard the floods minister Hilary Benn say during the sodden summer as people baled out flood stricken homes that there would be an immediate increase in spending on flood defences to £800m a year. Or, was that was I was meant to think I was hearing at the time?
Obviously, I should have read the small print. That wasn’t what he meant at all. He forgot to make clear that this increase wouldn’t kick in until 2010 at the earliest for that is what the new Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the House of Commons this afternoon. Most likely Mr Benn would have liked to have the money to spend now but Mr Darling – seeking to earn his Treasury spurs – said no.
The insurance industry is rightly furious as the Association of British Insurer’s toughly worded statement straight after the announcement makes clear. What will now be interesting will be how quickly the criticism from flood prone regions starts to hit home. Cynically, one could have previously thought Labour wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to spend money on flood defences because it is largely Tory held constituencies that get hit hardest. Surely, this summer showed that floods have no political favourites? Look at Hull, a Liberal Democrat Council and three Labour MPs.
With some schemes now set to be put back at least three years it is almost a sure fire certainty that before 2010 is out at least one area that could have been protected will be badly flooded. What will the government say then?
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