Back in the summer of 2014, CAG Consultants, along with HaskoningDHV and Databuild, were commissioned by Defra to carry out 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 following the major floods of winter 2015, the findings of the evaluation are more relevant than ever.
In Part 1, I outlined the purpose and scope of the evaluation, and summarised what we found in terms of how well local councils are delivering their statutory responsibilities in relation to local flood risk management.
In Part 2, I summarised what we found in terms of the practice of local flood risk management.
In Part 3, I summarised what we found in terms of the costs and funding of local flood risk management
In this post, I summarise our conclusions.
In part 5, I’ll highlight some of the key considerations for improving local flood risk management.
These reflections are drawn from the evaluation report, which is Crown Copyright (Defra). To view the report itself, click here.
Impact of the changes introduced through the Flood & Water Management Act
The evaluation found that:
- There was a general consensus amongst stakeholders that the Flood & Water Management Act had led to better strategic planning of flood risk management;
- The wider evidence generally supported this view. The Flood & Water Management Act 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 Flood & Water Management Act related to public perceptions and the development of public resilience to flood risk. There is little evidence that the Flood & Water Management Act had had a material impact on the level of public understanding of flood risk or built the resilience of communities to flood risk, although it should be noted that no research was carried out with the public; and
- There appeared to have been considerable variation in the impact of the Flood & Water Management Act depending on different LLFA characteristics. The authority type (two-tier or unitary) and whether the LLFA had drainage staff in place prior to the Flood & Water Management Act, appear to have been key factors in determining the relative impact of the Act. To read more on this, see section 7 of the main evaluation report.
Good practice, enabling factors and barriers
Examples of good practice are highlighted throughout sections four to six of the evaluation report. They include examples of joint working between LLFAs on strategy preparation, improved systems for recording flooding incidents, innovative approaches to flood investigations and enforcement activities, successful structures for stakeholder and community engagement, securing funding for schemes through the Local Enterprise Partnership and many more.
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 Flood & Water Management 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
Click here for Part 5, which highlights some of the key considerations for improving local flood risk management.
And please add your thoughts and comments below. Do these findings tally with your experience? How have things moved on since summer 2015?