Back in the summer of 2014, CAG Consultants were commissioned to lead an evaluation of the arrangements for managing flood risk in England. Some time has passed since our final report was completed the following summer. However, in the absence of any major changes to the practice of local flood risk management, and with major flooding hitting the headlines once again, the findings of the evaluation are more relevant than ever.
The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 ushered in a new era of local flood risk management. It made upper-tier local authorities the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for their area, the intention being to fill the gap in local leadership and coordination which was identified in the Pitt Review.
Our theory-based evaluation sought to take stock of progress since the Act, identify good practice and the scope for simplification and efficiencies. Following the development of the theoretical framework and methodology, extensive fieldwork was conducted across all LLFAs, with further in-depth case study research in 30 local authority areas.
The evaluation found that:
- There was a general consensus amongst stakeholders that the Act had led to better strategic planning of flood risk management;
- The wider evidence generally supported this view. The had led to a strengthening of the structures, systems and processes for managing local flood risk;
- Based on the views of stakeholders, the principal weakness of the Act related to public perceptions and the development of public resilience to flood risk. There was little evidence that the Act had had a material impact on the level of public understanding of flood risk or built the resilience of communities to flood risk; and
- There was considerable variation in the impact of the Act depending on different LLFA characteristics.
Factors which support improved local flood risk management
- Adequate resourcing. Where LLFAs had been well-resourced, this appeared to have been important in relation to delivering all of the statutory requirements of the Act and in the wider practice of local flood risk management.
- Partnership working. Effective partnership working both between different LLFAs and between LLFAs and other risk management authorities, had underpinned much of the successful implementation of the Act.
Factors which act as barriers to improved local flood risk management
- Resource constraints. Despite the staff resource increasing, staff and funding constraints were the most commonly cited challenge to LLFAs delivering and playing a leadership role in local flood risk management. Concerns about resourcing were shared by LLFAs and many external stakeholders. Limitations in the resource available had hindered delivery of the statutory responsibilities introduced by the Act and limitations in revenue funding meant that accessing funding for capital schemes was felt to be challenging by many LLFAs.
- Differing objectives, priorities and regulatory environments. Where they exist, challenges to partnership working had resulted from partners’ differing objectives, priorities and regulatory environments. Commercial and legal sensitivities had restricted the water companies’ ability to share data in some cases. These differences had also made it challenging to resolve issues regarding the responsibility for some assets and flooding incidents.
- Public engagement and public expectations. Some stakeholders believed that the extent to which flooding incidents were being investigated was being hindered by under-reporting of flooding incidents by members of the public, who were often concerned about the impact on property prices or insurance. LLFAs and partner agencies also reported finding it challenging to manage public expectations when not all potential solutions could be delivered.
- LLFA skills and knowledge. Despite the apparent ongoing improvement in the capability of LLFA staff, concerns remained among some stakeholders about the levels of technical expertise available to LLFAs, with recruitment of specialist staff remaining challenging and some experienced staff being made redundant or retiring, particularly within lower-tier councils.
To view the report, click here.