Somerset Rivers Authority’s purpose, history and funding

Contents – quick links

What Somerset Rivers Authority does
What Somerset Rivers Authority does not do
Brief history of Somerset Rivers Authority
Funding from local partners
Funding from Heart of the SW Local Enterprise Partnership

What Somerset Rivers Authority does

Put simply, Somerset Rivers Authority does extra.

It gives Somerset an extra level of flood protection and resilience, above and beyond the usual activities of other Flood Risk Management Authorities, such as the new Somerset Council, the Parrett and Axe Brue Internal Drainage Boards and the Environment Agency.

How does the SRA do what it does?

It raises extra money.

It funds extra work.

It provides extra information.

It provides greater opportunities for different people and groups, different organisations and places to work together. Somerset’s flood risk management benefits from people’s collective experience and knowledge.

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What Somerset Rivers Authority does not do

Somerset Rivers Authority is not involved in coastal flood risk activities.

Somerset Rivers Authority is not involved in emergency responses to flooding or in flood recovery efforts. This means, for example, that the SRA does not supply sandbags, or set up pumps, or clear debris.

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Brief history of Somerset Rivers Authority


The SRA’s creation was proposed in the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan.

This major 20-year blueprint for progress was drawn up during the awful floods of 2013-14.

The Flood Action Plan called for the development of a “future governance and funding model – a ‘Somerset rivers board’ – working with local partners including Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Boards and relevant stakeholders.”

Somerset Rivers Authority was duly launched on January 31, 2015 as a pioneering partnership of local Flood Risk Management Authorities.

Nowadays, partners in the SRA are the new Somerset Council, the Parrett and the Axe Brue Internal Drainage Boards, the Environment Agency, Natural England,  the Wessex Regional Flood & Coastal Committee and Wessex Water. Representatives of all these bodies sit on the SRA Board, and as SRA partners follow the 2023-24 version of the SRA’s Local Memorandum of Understanding and Constitution (PDF).

With the formation of the SRA, the scope of the Flood Action Plan was widened to include the whole of Somerset.

The SRA oversees the Flood Action Plan. It funds works that meet Flood Action Plan objectives:

  1. Reduce the frequency, depth and duration of flooding
  2. Maintain access for communities and business
  3. Increase resilience to flooding for families, agriculture, businesses, communities, and wildlife
  4. Make the most of the special characteristics of Somerset (with internationally important biodiversity, environment and cultural heritage)
  5. Ensure strategic road and rail connectivity, both within Somerset and through the county to the South West peninsula
  6. Promote business confidence and growth

The SRA does not take away any of its partners’ existing responsibilities or accountabilities (nor any of Somerset landowners’ existing responsibilities or accountabilities). They all continue.

To repeat: the SRA does extra – not instead.

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Funding from local partners

For its first full year of work in 2015-16, the SRA had Interim Funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Somerset’s local authorities (at that time the county council, and five district councils) and Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium. Defra gave £1.9million, Somerset County Council gave £600,000, and the district councils and Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium together gave £200,000, making £2.7million in total.

In December 2015, the Department for Communities & Local Government (as it was then called) gave Somerset County Council and the five district councils the power to raise a shadow precept of up to 1.25% of 2016-17 council tax, to fund the SRA in 2016-17.

The reason why the figure of 1.25% of 2016-17 council tax was chosen for the SRA’s shadow precepting for 2016-17 was because it came tidily close to reproducing the SRA’s initial annual Interim Funding budget of £2.7million.

The power to raise a shadow precept for the SRA has since passed to the new Somerset Council, which replaced the county council and the district councils in April 2023.

The level of the charge is still pegged to the initial £2.7 million figure, although the actual amount of money raised has gone up. In 2023-24, it’s £3.010million. This is because more households have been formed in Somerset (most obviously, because of new properties being built). In other words: the number of households asked to pay council tax in Somerset has got bigger, but the level of the charge itself has been frozen.

The Parrett and Axe Brue Internal Drainage Boards also choose to contribute a total of £20,000 a year.

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Funding from Heart of the SW Local Enterprise Partnership

The SRA gets no central government funding from year to year.

However, in 2014 Government funding of £13.1m was awarded through the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSWLEP) Growth Deal Fund for the carrying out of Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan – with £3.55m for flooding alleviation works in 2015-16, and a further £9.5m for future years. That money has been spent on a series of projects, including:

  • the River Sowy – King’s Sedgemoor Drain (KSD) Enhancements Scheme (Phase One)
  • Pioneer dredging activities on the River Parrett
  • Development work on the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier
  • Natural flood management works to Slow the Flow of water as part of Hills to Levels
  • Taunton Strategic Flood Alleviation Improvements Scheme
  • New Highbridge surface water pumping station

An account of the SRA’s spending of HotSWLEP money (PDF) was presented to the SRA Board on 5 March 2021.

The Flood Action Plan was drawn up during the floods of winter 2013-14. As explained in the ‘Brief history’ above, one of the actions in the Plan was the creation of a body such as the SRA. (At the time, the exact form of this mooted body wasn’t set out in minute detail). The SRA, being the body that did emerge out of the Plan, now oversees the Flood Action Plan, which is why it made sense for the SRA to spend the HotSWLEP Growth Deal money.

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