SRA Annual Report 2018-19: SRA Funding and Legislation
Funding from local partners
For its first full year of work in 2015-16, the SRA had Interim Funding of £2.7million from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), Somerset’s local authorities and Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium. In December 2015, the Government gave Somerset County Council and Somerset’s 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 figure of 1.25% was chosen because it came close to matching the SRA’s initial budget of £2.7m.
The SRA is still reliant upon annual shadow precepting and its level is still pegged to that initial £2.7m, although the actual amount of money raised has gone up. In 2018-19, it was £2.87million. In other words: the level of the charge is frozen, but as the number of households in Somerset increases every year, more people pay, so the total amount rises. The Parrett and Axe-Brue Internal Drainage Boards also choose to contribute £10,000 a year each.
Funding from Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSWLEP)
The SRA gets no central government funding from year to year. However, in 2014 Government funding of £13.049m was awarded through the 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 £9.5m for future years. As the body that oversees the Flood Action Plan, the SRA plans to spend its Growth Deal funding by 2021 on several major projects.
The Government has pledged several times to put the SRA on a secure long-term footing, and give it the power to raise its own share of council tax. With Government support, Somerton and Frome MP David Warburton took up a Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill drafted by Defra as a Private Members’ Bill. He introduced this Bill to Parliament on 5 March 2018, then a burst of activity in February and March 2019 saw it pass through the House of Commons with cross-party support. It went up to the House of Lords and had its 2nd Reading on 16 May 2019.
Transcripts of all debates can be read on Hansard: https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2017-19/ riversauthoritiesandlanddrainage.html
Following a critical report by the Lords’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, whose arguments were backed by the Lords’ Constitution Committee, the Bill was withdrawn by Mr Warburton in July 2019. New ways forward are now being discussed.