Floods Cost Somerset Up To £147.5 Million, Report Reveals

Floods cost Somerset up to £147.5 million, report reveals

Somerset Rivers Authority is considering options to fund additional flood protection in Somerset, as figures in a newly-released Economic Impact Assessment show the 2013-14 winter floods cost the county up to £147.5 million. The South West Peninsula was also significantly affected.

Members of the Board of Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) last week (July 10, 2015) held a constructive meeting to discuss a Funding Options report for additional flood protection in Somerset. It will now be circulated to a wider stakeholder group including the Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG), the National Farmers Union (NFU) and others, for consideration at a workshop on July 24.

Members of Somerset’s local authorities and the Internal Drainage Boards, all represented on the SRA Board, will also now consider the options over the coming weeks.

The SRA Board will meet in September to finalise its recommendation to Ministers for a preferred option. Ministers will then consider the options and discuss next steps with the SRA in setting up a future funding mechanism to enable additional flood protection for the county.

“The Economic Impact Assessment underlines the massive impact of flooding and the urgent need to secure future funding for the SRA and the extra flood-protection work it is responsible for,” said Cllr John Osman, Chair of the SRA.

The Funding Options report was compiled by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the SRA.

“We are keen to move things forward as soon as possible and are delighted that ministers want to work with us. We look forward to working together in setting up the mechanism for this to happen,” said Cllr Osman.

“This will be key to finally solving the long-term issue of flooding in Somerset. No-one can stop flooding, but the SRA’s actions will reduce the frequency, duration and severity of a flood of the nature experienced in 2013-14.”

The Funding Options report considers: a new precepting body (legal power to raise income), a new levying body, council tax, Internal Drainage Boards extending boundaries or increasing levy, a county drainage district. (See below for more details).

The newly-published Economic Impact Assessment shows that the economic cost of the floods to Somerset alone was up to £147.5 million, with the South West region significantly affected.

Key findings included:
• Half of all Somerset businesses were badly affected by the floods
• 86% of Somerset businesses were badly affected by road closures
• 75% of Plymouth businesses were badly affected by transport disruption caused by the floods
• The impact on residential property was up to £20 million
• The impact on public mental health was “devastating”
• Environment Agency, emergency services and local government response costs were up to £19.3 million
• The impact on the railway is estimated at up to £21.3 million
• Over 80 roads were closed at a cost of up to £15 million to the local economy

The report was undertaken by independent consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff for Somerset County Council, on behalf of the SRA.

Report summaries

Use the following links to get copies of reports. Or scroll down for brief summaries of the Economic Impact Assessment and Funding Review reports.

Economic Impact Assessment Summary

Economic Impact Assessment Full Report

Economic Impact Assessment Appendices (115 pages)

Economic Impact Assessment Questions and Answers

SRA Funding Options Review

SRA Funding Options Review Questions and Answers

1. Economic Impact Assessment

Given the complex nature of the economy, the report states it is common practise to present a high and low estimate either side of a central estimate of costs. The figures in this press release show up to the highest estimate.

The report was undertaken by independent consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff for Somerset County Council, on behalf of the SRA. The report aims to establish the true economic impact of the winter 2013/14 flooding; provide evidence for investment in flood risk management; inform the SRA’s work.

Key points include:

Economy

• Half of all businesses in Somerset were badly affected by the floods
• 86% of Somerset businesses were badly affected by road closures
• Impacts to business premises cost up to £4.1 million
• 75% of Plymouth businesses were badly affected by transport disruption caused by the floods. 66% found it harder to win new business
• 35% of Torbay businesses were impacted by transport disruption from the floods

Health and Emergency Services

• Responding to the floods cost the Environment Agency, emergency services and local government up to £19.3 million
• 128 pumps were running at the peak of pumping operations
• The report says the impact on public mental health was “devastating”
• The social impact costs, considered to be an under-estimate, were up to £4.8 million

Transport

• The impact on the railway is estimated at up to £21.3 million including loss of services
• Over 80 roads were closed at a cost of up to £15 million to the local economy

Agriculture

• Agricultural impact costs were up to £6.9 million

Residential property

• Cost of impacts to residential property was up to £20 million

2. Funding Options report

The Funding Options report sets out potential options and pros and cons for each, but does not recommend a particular one.

The following are the local funding options identified:

Creating a new precepting body (legal power to raise income)

Under this option, the SRA would be established as a new statutory body with precepting powers using primary legislation. The body could raise income from householders and additionally from landowners/land occupiers outside Internal Drainage Board areas. This option would require primary legislation, which could be introduced in Parliament using a public (government) bill or as a private bill sponsored by an external body like Somerset County Council.

Creating a new levying body

There are existing precedents for flood risk management levies in the form of Internal Drainage Board levies and the Environment Agency’s local levy. Primary legislation would be needed to set up the SRA as a statutory body with new powers to charge all Somerset local authorities, or only the County Council, a flood risk management levy. A levying body could either cover the whole of Somerset or it could be limited to areas not currently covered by Internal Drainage Boards.

Council tax

Somerset County Council and the 5 district councils could fund the SRA at the same level as in 2015-16 from council tax. The councils could use a one-off increase in council tax, within the referendum threshold (which was 2% in 2015/16), to generate additional funding for the SRA from households. This could apply from April 2016. In subsequent years the funding would be considered part of the baseline and would not require future council tax increases.

Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) extend boundaries or increase levy

Internal Drainage Boards charge rates and levies to cover their annual expenses. These are reviewed and approved by the Board each year. Under this option both the IDBs in Somerset would have to show that their expenses had increased and would generate the additional £2.7m funds by increasing special levies and charges paid by districts and agricultural land occupiers.

County Drainage District

A further option presented by the Association of Drainage Authorities was the creation of a new kind of Internal Drainage Board in a County Drainage District. This could cover the area inside Somerset but not currently covered by the existing Internal Drainage Boards districts. Unless it was possible to show that all of this land would derive benefit or avoid danger from land drainage activities, this would require new legislation.

The SRA received one year’s interim funding of £2.7m for 2015-16: £1.9m from Defra and £800,000 from Somerset partners. Somerset County Council provided £600,000, and between them Sedgemoor District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, South Somerset District Council, Mendip District Council, West Somerset Council and Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium provided £200,000.

This is being used to carry out dredging and a number of other flood risk reduction activities through an Enhanced Maintenance Programme.

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