Background

Over the past week or so we have posted articles about the manner in which the coalition government has cut flood defence spending in the UK. We hesitate to revisit the scene of the government’s crime but there is yet further news to report!Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 17.50.04

Mr Owen Patterson, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra), has constantly and aggressively denied that the government has cut funding for flood defences. Indeed he has sought to intimidate his critics into silence.

For example, in October last year Mr Paterson, a climate change sceptic, was challenged about the spending cuts for flood spending at a Royal Society of Arts talk where he was the invited speaker. Addressing Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole, who had had the temerity to question Mr Paterson’s grasp of the truth, the Secretary of State said:

“I’m afraid you can’t shake your head, I’m giving you facts. If we’re going to have a dialogue, I’m giving you a fact, you look me in the eye, you look at the records, you’ve got to respect that I’m giving you the truth.”

David Cameron repeated this claim in parliament on 8th January. “In this current four-year period, we are spending £2.3 billion, compared with £2.1 billion in the previous period”.

Well it now appears that Mr Paterson and Mr Cameron were not telling the truth.

Mr Paterson’s deputy Mr Dan Rogerson drew the short straw of publishing a ‘clarification’, saying: “Floods funding is complex, with a number of different income streams including government funding, local levies, and other contributions towards schemes.”

Mr Rogerson, Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall, also says, “Further analysis has identified some minor inconsistencies in figures previously provided. I regret this was not presented in a consistent way, something I have now rectified.”

So what are the correct figures?

The new, improved, ‘washes whiter than white’ figures confirm what Guy Shrubsole had said from the beginning; that the government is spending £2.341 bn in the current spending review (2011-15), compared with £2.371 bn spent in 2007-11.

And note, these figures do not take inflation into account, let alone address the widespread view that spending should have been increased to deal with the effect of climate change.

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said: “It is humiliating for David Cameron and Owen Paterson that they have finally been forced to reveal that spending on flood protection was not protected when cuts to the Environment Department’s budget were made.

“The prime minister must now stop repeating his misleading claim that more is being spent when these new figures reveal that is simply not true.”

For further information, Guy Shrubsole’s account of the situation can be found here

Conclusion

We have checked Mr Paterson and Mr Rogerson’s official websites. Neither the Secretary of State nor his Lib Dem sidekick have come clean and informed their constituents about these ‘minor inconsistencies’.
We are not surprised – we note Mr Paterson’s first job in parliament was as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the arch exponent of statistical manipulation, the Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith, Sept 2001 – Oct 2003.

For the record, the Environment Agency has 16 flood warnings and 106 flood alerts in operation at the moment (20th January 2014). Whilst Mr Paterson is playing hide-and-seek with his statistics and evading his responsibilities some poor souls are mopping up their homes and will be doing so for some time to come.

Britain Can Certainly Do Better Than This

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