Showing posts with label Budget Cuts-Britain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Budget Cuts-Britain. Show all posts

January 8, 2014

Britain’s Cuts to Citizen’s Services puts Population at Risk

Sweeping budget cuts could affect the Environment Department's ability to respond to emergencies such as the current flooding, MPs warn.
Half a billion pounds has been cut from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) budget since 2010 and the department is facing further cuts of more than £300m over the next two years, the MPs say.

The department's ability to deal with crises such as flooding, the horse-meat scandal and ash dieback tree disease must be protected in the face of budget reductions, the environment select committee says.
Recent flooding events reinforce the committee's concerns about cuts to the Defra budget- Anne McIntosh MP
The government has pledged to increase spending on new flood defence schemes to £370 million in 2015/2016, with the money ring-fenced.
But the report revealed that the Environment Agency, a government body funded by Defra with a key role in dealing with flooding, is to lose more than 1,500 jobs in the next year.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the government was working closely with local councils, the insurance industry and others, to ensure that people could quickly get the help they need.
Some areas of the country were now focused on recovery after storms and flooding over the Christmas and New Year period, while others remained at significant risk of floods, he told the Commons.
Mr Paterson admitted that a few energy network companies could have been quicker at restoring power to thousands of homes affected by the storms and floods over Christmas.

'Massive budget cuts'

Committee chairwoman Anne McIntosh said: "Defra is a small ministry facing massive budget cuts and which relies on a large number of arms-length bodies to deliver many significant areas of policy.

"Ministers must clarify how further budget cuts over £300m over the next coming two years will impact on the funding provided to these agencies and the ability of the department to respond to emergencies."

She added: "Recent flooding events over the Christmas and new year period reinforce the committee's concerns about cuts to the Defra budget and how these will be realised."

The MPs also raise concerns about the small amount of private sector funding delivered under a new scheme to pay for more flood defences by raising money from businesses and organisations that could benefit from the protection.

Defra should confirm the level of contributions from non-government sources through "partnership funding", and show how it would deliver much greater private sector funding in the future, the committee says.

The department is also facing a number of challenges in the coming year, including its policy on badger culling to tackle TB in cattle, the introduction of a plastic bag charge and the use of GM technology in food, the report says.

'Biodiversity offsetting'

MPs said Mr Paterson must set out which polices and programmes face significant budget reductions in the next two financial years.

And proposals for "biodiversity offsetting" - in which developers pay for loss of wildlife by creating new habitat elsewhere - should not be taken further until the results of pilot schemes have been independently assessed.

But charges for single-use plastic bags should be introduced sooner than the planned date of 2015, the MPs say.

The report also warns that the new digital system of delivering subsidies to farmers would cause problems for those in rural areas who did not have access to broadband.

Farmers without rural broadband should continue to be able to access payments via paper-based systems, they say.

A spokesman for Defra said the department was currently spending more than £2.3bn on tackling the risk of flooding and coastal erosion.

"Together with contributions from other partners, this is more money than ever before. We'll also be making record levels of capital investment and will be spending over £400m by 2020/21," he said.

"In addition we have provided the Environment Agency with an above-inflation increase of £5m on their floods maintenance work in 2015/16.

"Departments and agencies across government are having to make choices about their budgets and the Environment Agency is making their own choices about how best to use their resources."

He also said that partnership funding of flood defences is expected to deliver around £148m of contributions from non-government sources up to 2015.

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle criticised Mr Paterson.

She said he had "failed to prioritise investment in flood defences, nor explained how communities at risk from flooding will not be adversely impacted by major reductions in Environment Agency staff, despite evidence that extreme weather conditions are set to become more frequent".

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