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Labour blasts flood defence spending cuts

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 27, 2012

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Labour has renewed its criticism of Government cuts to flood defence spending after households were battered by storms and torrential rain in the last week.

The broadside came as MPs from across the Westcountry raised concerns about the region's infrastructure, and the prospect of homes and businesses being without insurance in the future, during an urgent ministerial statement to the Commons.

The Government earlier this year announced £7.4 million was going to 22 new or ongoing flood defence schemes in Devon and Cornwall from April. But the flood prevention cash was £4.4 million less than the £11.8 million doled out to the two counties in 2011/12.

Labour claims flood investment will be cut by £400 million in total across the country, and that ministers are playing "Russian roulette" as homes are at risk.

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Mary Creagh, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, said: "Everyone's thoughts will be with those hit by this latest severe flooding. I want to salute the fantastic work of all the emergency services in Devon and Cornwall, and of local people helping one another.

"Extreme weather conditions are likely to be more common in future. The Tory-led Government has cut investment in flood defences by 27% despite the risk of flooding increasing.

"The Government needs to get a grip on flood investment for the South West and put in place an insurance framework that will ensure high-risk homes are able to access the protection they need."

Around 150 proposed flood defence schemes to protect thousands of Westcountry homes and businesses will not get state support this year.

Projects waiting for money include refurbishments in Exeter and Crackington Haven, North Cornwall, which was battered by flash floods at the same time as Boscastle in 2005.

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs argues it has shielded flood spending from cuts and has committed £2.17 billion to safeguard properties by 2015.

In his statement, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson offered condolences to the family and friends of those killed.

He told MPs: "Heavy rainfall is not unusual at this time of year, however we have experienced bands of low pressure over the weekend bringing often intense rainfall falling on catchments that are now saturated."

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