Reading the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 doesn’t easily clear up all the timescales for delivery of the various steps required to comply with the Act and ultimately when it is liable to bring real world flood prevention and protection measures to fruition. Surely there must be an easier way to find out the deliverables timescale rather than reading through and deciphering the Act? Yes, there is now. The Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act Annual Report to Parliament 2009 has recently been published on the Scottish Government website, a report that appears to provide some of the outstanding answers being sought by flood survivors.
Milestone: Publish implementation plans for delivering all measures set out in local flood risk management plans.
Lead: Local authorities
It is slightly alarming to see it could take until 2016 before local authorities publish their implementation plans. Gulp! Freuchie will undoubtedly have been hit by more flooding before this happens.
The intention is to lay a second commencement order in 2010 to bring into force Part 4 and the remaining sections of Part 6. In commencing Part 4, regulations setting out the transitional arrangements for transfer from the current statutory process for Flood Protection Schemes under the 1961 Act to the new process set out in the FRM Act will also be laid.
Part 4 of the Act relates to local authority powers to manage flood risk. Basically the local authorities gain all manner of new and strengthened powers and responsibilities for flooding in 2010.
In response to the long standing concerns surrounding the existing statutory process for Flood Protection Schemes, we are keen to allow local authorities to utilise the benefits of the new system as early as possible and without the need to go through a lengthy and complex period of transition.
Provision has been made to deliver flood improvements in a more timely fashion, but this will depend on your local authority pushing things along. In the meantime we need to push ahead under the old legislation and transitional arrangements – basically the outgoing regime that is no longer fit for purpose.
From 1 April 2008, funding of flood protection and coast protection schemes is not identified separately but the previous ring-fenced grant provision of £42 million in 2007-08 is rolled up in the General Capital Grant which is distributed to local authorities as part of the 3-year local government finance settlement covering the period 2008-11. The decision to substantially reduce ring-fencing was welcomed by COSLA and local government, and had no impact on the level of capital grant funding available to them. For 2009-10, local government was provided with a general capital grant of £462.64 million. The Scottish Government is continuing to deliver on its commitment to increase local authorities’ share of the Scottish Budget.
The report skirts around the issue of whether there has been increased spending on flood prevention since the change from ring fencing of funds to the Single Outcome Agreement. Going forward, a major worry has to be the potential for underfunding of flooding at local authority level. Councillors may well decide flooding is not a priority as the austerity cuts start to bite. Flood affected communities will have to lobby very hard to ensure councillors don’t make it impossible for flood officers to resource flood prevention and protection projects. Let’s hope we don’t hear Anne Robinson muttering, “Flooding… you are the weakest link!”
The Scottish Flood Forum (SFF) was set up in October 2008, with funding from the Scottish Government and the feedback received, from local authorities, community councils and individuals who have been flooded, on the services provided by SFF is very positive.
Freuchie Flood Action Group has the highest praise for the hard work and advice of Paul Hendy from the Scottish Flood Forum (SFF). We were the first flood action group to work with the SFF, a partnership that ensured Freuchie was well known by everyone that matters in the world of flooding! The commitment outlined in the report to extend the services available from the SFF is fabulous news for flood affected communities.
Elsewhere in the report, ongoing research and projects using Natural Flood Management (NFM) are mentioned. Developments in the flood warning service are welcome, but only become useful in Fife once the projects are rolled out Scotland wide. The changes in areas of responsibility for the local authorities, Scottish Water, SEPA and other stakeholders are touched upon. A selection of large capital flood projects throughout Scotland are dealt with, but it is interesting to note the lack of information on any Fife projects currently underway!
Flood action groups and flood survivors will take a mixed bag from this report. In general it demonstrates good progress in dealing with flooding in Scotland.
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