Government Spending on Flooding

DateOct 10, 2017
AuthorAnna Gallart

Anna Gallart is an environmental consultant at Groundsure. In this blog, Anna discusses government spending on flooding. If you have any questions or comments about this blog, please email

The Committee on Climate Change states that climate change is likely to increase the frequency and magnitude of severe flooding if global warming continues to increase and that flooding will be the greatest impact of climate change in the UK. [1] Temperature in the UK has already increased 1 degree Centigrade since the 1970s due to the levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. [2] If there is not a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions soon, four or more degrees of warming could take place this century. In England, more than five million properties are at risk of flooding and it is expected that the number of households at significant risk of flooding will more than double to 1.9m by 2050 if the global temperature increases by 4 degrees. [1] Floods cause approximately £1bn of loss in England every year and it is predicted this will increase further over the years as the climate change leads to more intense rainfall, consequently increasing the risk of flooding in areas not currently at risk. [3] The impact of flooding in some areas of England has already been devastating, leading some to question how much is the government spending on flood every year? Is it enough?


How much does the government spend on flood defences every year?

Good news! The government is planning to invest more on flood defences and coastal erosion protection over the next few years. Whilst the last parliament spent £1.7bn in capital on flood defence between 2010 and 2015, the current Government plans to spend £2.3bn on flood defences during 2015-2021 (a 6-year programme).  Part of this budget also includes maintenance to flood defences, but it is still unclear what the total resource budget will be. [4]

Does the government spend enough money on flooding?

It is commonly felt that the government does not spend enough money on preventing flooding. [5] The Committee of Climate Change emphasises that the flood risk has been increasing due to poor investment and inadequate management on flood defences [1]. The Government’s future 25-year plan for the environment purports to aim to reduce the risk of flooding by efficiently managing river catchments and reducing coastal erosion in order to minimise the risk of flooding. [6] On the other hand, according to the Third National Climate Assessment report, the long-term effects of climate change will increase flooding in the UK, therefore increasing the need for more investment in flood defences and maintenance. [7] So, does the current budget include money for repairing flood defences? It seems investment in protecting flood defences has not been confirmed yet and therefore the Government cannot convincingly claim that they are keeping pace with current flood risk.  It is difficult to know whether the investment will be enough to cover the maintenance of flood defences and new projects. [6, 7] In 2014 the Environment Agency stated that the optimum Long Term Investment on flood should be £750m-£800m per year. With the Government proposing an investment averaging around £383m per year (£2.3bn total) over 2015-21, it looks like the government should increase the budget for flood defences and maintenance if we want to reduce the risk and cost of flooding. [7]

Is the investment in flood defences guaranteed  after Brexit?

Most of the environmental policies and regulations in the UK are driven by European legislation. [8] However, flood legislation is mostly associated with planning legislation and is generally UK-derived, but the environmental protection features associated with this do have relate to EU law, such as the EU Floods and Water Framework Directives. So there is some EU impact. So, will the investment on flooding be affected after the UK exits from the EU? The Institute for European Policy states that Brexit is an opportunity to rethink and reconfigure the actual flood protection scheme, but the immediate legal impact on flooding after Brexit is still uncertain and this depends on how the separation is achieved legally. [9] On the other hand, the Government has stated that no help in funding for flood defences comes from the EU, which translates to no direct impact being expected on flooding investment after Brexit. But, could the investment on flooding be indirectly affected by EU policies and subsidies?  It seems that future support on flood defences and maintenance could be linked to environmental measures and one area affected and under revision could be flood protection [10]. For example, uncertainty about how the UK will exit the EU means that the EU funding to the UK for environment and climate projects are potentially at risk [11]. So, in what way could this have an influence on future plans and budgets on flood defences? Many factors can be taken into account and it is a complex question, but if a reduction of funding on other projects are expected, a reduction of flood funding could be expected as an indirect result. From my point of view, the question is still uncertain but there are possible indirect impacts of Brexit on flooding investment.



  1. Committee of Climate Change (2015). UK floods: Climate change likely to increase frequency and magnitude of severe flooding events. Available at: (Accessed 08/12/2016)
  1. Clifford Chance (2016). Brexit. What will happen to Environmental & Climate Change Law? Available at: ( Accessed 08/12/2016)
  1. The Guardian 2016. UK government not spending enough on flood defences, poll finds (2016). Available at: (Accessed on 1 November 2016)
  1. The UK’s Independent Factchecking Charity (2015). Flood defences: what's happening to funding? Available at: 12 November 2016).
  1. Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (2016). Central Government Funding for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in England. Available at: (Accessed 25 November 2016).
  1. Friends of the Earth (2015). Floods, climate change and flood defence investment. Available at (Accessed 12 November 2016)
  1. Greenpeace (2015). Why the UK may not spending enough money on dealing with floods and climate change. Available at: (Accessed 25 November 2016).
  1. Dwf (2016). The implications for UK environmental legislation following Brexit. Available at: ( Accessed 2 August 2017)
  1. Institute European Policy (2016). The potential policy and environmental consequences for the UK of a departure from the European Union. Available at: (Accessed 1 November 2016).
  1. House of Commons library (2016). Flood risk management and funding. Available at: (Accessed 02 August 2017)
  2. Energydesk (2016). Brexit: Is billions in climate funding at risk? Available at: (Accessed on 08/12/2016)