The flooding in Cumbria is continuing to cause misery for thousands of people and as often happens in these situations, attention has turned onto whether the government has done enough to protect people. Liz Truss, the Environment Secretary, popped up on the Today programme to defend the government’s flood defence plans. She described what has happened in Cumbria as a ‘devastating situation’, which was the result of an ‘extreme event’:
‘The scale of this was absolutely extraordinary – to have half a metre more of water than we’ve seen before in any of these towns and cities in Cumbria was extraordinary’.
Despite ‘an environment where overall the government budget is reducing’ Truss insisted the government is ‘spending more on flood defences because it’s a priority’. As well a £2.3 billion plan for spending on flood defences over the next six years, £171 million is also being spent on maintenance work to existing infrastructure:
‘These spending plans will protect an additional 300,000 homes…it will reduce the risk and that’s what the Environment Agency’s models will show. This spending will reduce the risk of flooding over the next six years. What it can’t do is eliminate the risk, that is very very very difficult to do because, you know, inevitably we have projections but we see extreme events taking place’.
Extreme weather is always a challenge for politicians because they have to be seen doing something, even when everything practically possible is in place. As David Cameron has shown over the last few days, there is a standard procedure: activate COBRA, dig out the wellies, visit the affected areas and reassure people. Liz Truss has been doing something similar today.