Environment Secretary Owen Paterson defends cuts to the flood defence budget, telling Channel 4 News that reductions have been small considering the “dire economic inheritance” from Labour.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Paterson said flood defences were a priority, and that the government had spent £2.17bn on flood schemes.
“Given the absolutely dire economic inheritance we took on from the last government, under very difficult circumstances we have maintained a programme which has only seen a 6 per cent reduction over the spending round, over four years,” he said.
“And because we brought in the partnership scheme with local government we’ve seen actually some increase, about £70m from partnerships, and we’re spending in total about £2.17bn on schemes and they’re really beneficial.”
He was speaking amid disruption for rail and road travellers and amber warnings across north Wales and northern England as heavy rains continue.
National Rail said cross country services are being diverted around flooding in the Doncaster area and on the east coast main line there are delays between Durham and York and between York and Doncaster due to flooding.
The Environment Agency said there are currently 24 flood warnings and 41 flood alerts in place for Yorkshire and the north east of England. But with the rain persisting, communities are being urged to be vigilant.
Rivers are expected to continue to rise as surface water runs off saturated ground, and long delays and closures have taken place on the A19, a major arterial route in north east England, due to the flooding.
The prime minister promised the government would “ensure everything is being done to help” after winds and torrential rain left one person dead and forced hundreds from their homes.
Forecasters have warned there may be worse to come and after residents in the south west suffered from the floods over the weekend, people in the Midlands are now braced for the worst as bad weather moves northwards.
The storms have already caused devastation across large swathes of the country. A 21-year-old woman was killed and two people were seriously injured in Western Way, Exeter, Devon when they were crushed by a tree as wild winds whipped southern England.
For more information about flood risks in your area, go to the Environment Agency website
Up to 15mm of rain is forecast to fall across the spine of Britain today, less than the 30mm of rain in pockets of the west country or the 40mm to 50mm possible in the north and north Wales, but meteorologists said it would offer little respite to weary homeowners keen to begin the clean-up.
West Country train services were, once again, among the worst hit in the country. In Devon, a landslip at Honiton and flooding at Axminster meant that buses had to replace trains between Exeter St David’s and Yeovil Junction, and flooding led to no trains being able to run between Tiverton Parkway and Exeter St David’s.
Weather presenter Liam Dutton consults his meteorological box of tricks to find out how long the bad weather will last
Buses also had to replace trains between Exeter St David’s and Barnstaple and between Liskeard and Looe in Cornwall. A tree on the line meant that a bus replacement service also had to run between Truro and Falmouth Docks in Cornwall.
Buses replaced trains between Bristol Parkway and Patchway and the First Great Western train company had to axe today’s sleeper services.
Trains were cancelled between Exeter St Davids and Yeovil Junction because of a landslip at Honiton and flooding near Axminster in Devon.
YouTube footage from the the small town of Ottery in Devon shows the extent of flooding.
Stephen Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said the government needs to act ensure insurance companies were able to provide home and business owners with affordable cover.
He said: “Yet again I call on the government to reach an agreement with insurers that will keep flood insurance available and affordable.
“The last two days should be a wake-up call for a government that needs to grip this issue and do so quickly.
“We know that flash flooding is increasing because of climate change and there’s now little we can do to stop it, but the government must act to make sure people aren’t left without insurance when the worst does happen.”