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£2.3bn for flood defences in England is not new money, and spending has gone backwards under this Tory-led government despite its claims to the contrary.
‘The government … is having to rely on councils to meet three-quarters of the costs as the private sector sit on their hands. It is difficult to see how cash-strapped local authorities will be able to raise anything like £600m for flood defences in the next six years.’ Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/Alamy
Maria Eagle MP, shadow environment secretary for the Labour party.
Climate change is a serious threat to national security and last year’s winter storms highlighted the cost, damages and disruption that extreme weather can cause. Yet within the first six months of the coalition, David Cameron cut the flood protection budget by over £100m, leaving many communities, including the South West, overly exposed.
Ever since then the government has been playing catch up and that’s what today’s promise of £2.3billion for flood defence schemes is all about.
Communities at risk of flooding won’t buy this spin from David Cameron. The £2.3bn is not new money, instead it is another re-announcement of capital funding confirmed a year ago. As a result the Committee on Climate Change claims that the government’s plans will leave 80,000 additional properties at significant risk of flooding in the next five years alone. There were even reports over the weekend that these plans contain a £500m black hole.
There are some heroic assumptions underlying these plans. The government has assumed it can raise £600m of the £2.3bn from its ‘partnership funding programme’, four times more than at present. The programme includes contributions from both the public and private sectors. Yet this has been a disaster.
Not only has the government failed to raise even the original target of £140m in this Parliament, it is having to rely on councils to meet three-quarters of the costs as the private sector sit on their hands. It is difficult to see how cash-strapped local authorities will be able to raise anything like £600m for flood defences in the next six years.
The reality is that flood risk management has gone backwards under this Tory-led government. Despite repeatedly telling us that they’re spending ‘more than ever’ and promising that “money is no object” they have been found out time and time again. Just last month the National Audit Office confirmed that David Cameron has cut flood defence spending by 10% in real terms since 2010.
This same short-term approach has been applied to the ongoing maintenance of flood defences which were cut by 20% in 2010. As a result the Committee on Climate Change has said that three-quarters of existing flood defences are not being maintained to their identified need. This will end up costing the taxpayer more in the long-term because maintaining existing flood defence systems can be among the most cost-effective use of resources.
This replaces The Guardian’s video which was not available to share.
Communities at risk of flooding deserve a proper long-term plan for infrastructure investment, including flooding. That is why Labour has called for an Independent National Infrastructure Commission to set out its flood defence spending in the context of a 25-30 year infrastructure plan.
Taking climate change seriously is not something only to be done a few months before an election. Voters won’t be fooled by the prime minister who pledged to lead the “greenest government ever” and then instructed his aides to “cut the green crap”.
Maria Eagle MP is Labour’s shadow environment secretary.
A Twenty five-year-old woman arrested north of London for suspected offences relating to the civil war in Syria.
Detectives said security investigations were taking place at an ‘exceptionally high’ pace not seen in years. [Reuters]
Bedfordshire, England – British police have taken a 25-year-old woman into custody on suspicion of terrorism offences related to the ongoing civil war in Syria, officials have said.
London’s counter terrorism command said on Wednesday that officers had arrested the woman in Bedfordshire, north of the capital, on suspicion of preparing terrorism acts.
The police said she had been taken to a police station in London for questioning.
Two addresses in Bedfordshire were being searched, they added.
Last week, four men were charged with swearing allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who have seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq, and preparing to launch an attack on policemen or soldiers in the capital.
On Tuesday, London police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said at least five Britons were travelling to Iraq and Syria every week to fight for ISIL, while the authorities estimate that about 500 Britons have already travelled to the region to join the fighting.
Mark Rowley, Britain’s national policing spokesman for counter-terrorism, said last week that the police had made 218 arrests so far this year, and that detectives were carrying out security investigations at an “exceptionally high” pace not seen in years.
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves after giving a statement to the media about Scotland’s referendum results, outside his official residence at 10 Downing Street in central London, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Scottish voters have rejected independence, deciding to remain part of the United Kingdom after a historic referendum that shook the country to its core. The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron sought Monday to limit the divisive political fallout following the Scottish referendum, gathering senior Conservatives at his official country retreat to placate anger over promises made to Scotland to keep it in the United Kingdom.
Britain’s politicians now have the headache of mapping out how to implement the new powers pledged to Scotland and how that impacts the rest of the realm — England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Here is a guide to the issues being discussed.
WHAT IS THE ‘ENGLISH QUESTION?’
Cameron’s main problem is anger over the “English question,” or the “English votes for English laws” issue.
That refers to the question of whether Scottish lawmakers elected to the House of Commons can continue to vote on policies that only affect England — a longstanding grievance in the U.K.’s system.
The Cameron-led Conservative Party is upset that its leader, together with the two main opposition parties, promised to allow the Scottish Parliament to decide on their own tax, spending and welfare issues in a last-minute attempt to encourage voters to reject independence.
The Tories argue that if Scots get that package, then other parts of the U.K. should also be granted similar powers.
Conservative John Redwood said that some party members feel that “we too need our own devolved government to balance the kingdom.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SCOTLAND?
Cameron has drawn an acrimonious backlash for suggesting that handing power to the Scots should take place “in tandem” with a decision on constitutional reforms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister Danny Alexander called Cameron’s position “deeply frustrating.”
Cameron’s office has since stressed that it will honor the promise made last week.
But there is no consensus among the parties on the way forward. That doesn’t bode well for Scotland, which was promised legislation setting out the transfer of powers by mid-2015.
Many say that is an impossible timeline because there is simply no quick fix to constitutional changes that affect the whole of the U.K.
Alex Salmond, the Scottish independence leader, has said Scottish voters are angry and hurt by the political fallout, and claimed they have been “tricked” into voting to stay in the union.
Cameron is now in a bind to calm the rebellion within his own ranks and has to convince the public he hasn’t backtracked on a promise.
But the opposition Labour Party, which is seeking a return to power in next year’s general election, stands to lose the most in the fallout. The party, which has 41 of Scotland’s 59 lawmakers, will suffer from any measures to restrict Scottish voting rights.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband refused to back or reject Cameron’s stance, only saying he would be open to the idea of greater scrutiny by English lawmakers.
LONDON (AP) — The British pound slipped sharply after an opinion poll showed that those advocating Scottish independence from the United Kingdom have gained ground, a little more than two weeks before the vote.
A YouGov poll released Tuesday showed support for Scottish independence running at 47 percent. As a result, the ‘no’ camp — those supporting the continuation of the 307-year union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland — only has a 6 percent lead in the poll.
That represents a significant narrowing in the ‘no’ lead. Less than a month ago, the equivalent poll lead was over 20 points.
The narrowing echoes other findings that the ‘yes’ campaign has gained ground over the past week or so after its leader, Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond was widely judged to have bested Alistair Darling, the head of the “Better Together” campaign, in a televised debate.
“A close finish looks likely, and a ‘yes’ victory is now a real possibility,” said Peter Kellner, YouGov’s president. “Even if ‘no’ finally wins the day, it now looks less likely that it will win by a big enough margin to deliver a knockout blow to supporters of independence.”
The poll, which was based on interviews with 1,063 people, spooked some traders, and the pound traded 0.6 percent lower at $1.6525. The Scottish independence vote takes place Sept. 18.
“With less than three weeks to go until polling day the tide is starting to shift,” said Kathleen Brooks, research director at Forex.com.
The economic impact of a vote in favor of independence remains difficult to quantify as many aspects remain unclear, such as whether a go-it-alone Scotland would be able to use the pound as its currency, as the “yes” campaign advocates. There are also questions as to how the U.K.’s debt mountain would be divvied up.
“We think that the prospect of independence could boost volatility in the pound in the coming weeks,” Brooks added.
Scotland already has a parliament responsible for a wide array of social matters as well as its own legal code. However, economic and defense matters remain the responsibility of Westminster in London, where Scottish lawmakers make up a minority. The main U.K. political parties have indicated that they are prepared to give the Scottish Parliament more powers after the vote.
Conservatives opposition undermining projects and investment in renewables, say wind energy companies.
By Fiona Harvey. Little Cheyne Court windfarm in Camber, Kent, England. Photograph: Haydn West/Rex Features.
Conservative MPs are much more likely to oppose onshore windfarms than the national average of the public, a new poll has found.
About four out of five Tory MPs are likely to oppose onshore windfarms in their constituency, according to the poll conducted by ComRes on behalf of REG Windpower. But about six in 10 people across the country, and just over half of those eligible to vote in rural areas, favour onshore windfarms, even if built near them.
More Tory MPs than Labour represent rural constituencies, but only about one-third of people polled in rural areas said they would oppose onshore windfarms built near them.
Wind energy companies are angry that the Tories have suggested next year’s general election manifesto will include a pledge to cut or abolish altogether energy bill-payer subsidies to onshore windfarms, and that Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, has stopped or delayed some onshore wind projects. There are increasing fears that big investors will pull out of UK wind projects, which could stall renewable energy growth.
Andrew Whalley, chief executive of REG Windpower, said: “We’ve been told time and again by Conservatives that they recognise the financial and environmental arguments in favour of onshore wind, but that they can’t support it because their constituents don’t want it in their local areas. This research debunks that argument.
“Local communities not only understand the benefits in terms of energy security and stability of investing on renewables, but are largely accepting of onshore wind projects in their communities. The barrier to progress is the irrational and ideological hostility of many Conservative MPs, which is out of touch with public opinion.
“Conservative opposition to onshore wind, which is most evident in Eric Pickles’ abuse of the planning system to delay and prevent developments, is now undermining projects and investment in what is an established sector. Onshore wind has the potential to help reduce energy costs and our reliance on oil and gas. This potential might not be realised if the Conservatives don’t get on the same page as their constituents.”
However, the poll did not break down members of the public by voting intention, so it is not possible to say how many rural Tory voters or likely Tory voters would favour onshore windfarms in their area. It is possible that Tory MPs are attempting to appeal to their “base” vote by opposing the construction of renewable energy.
Separate polling shows only a small fraction of voters choose their MP based on his or her support for or opposition to renewable energy.
The REG poll questioned about 150 MPs of all parties.
Liberal Democrat MPs were also cooler on onshore windfarms than their party policies might suggest, with a third of those sampled declining to support onshore wind developments in their local area.
According to the poll, 55% of people in rural areas would be happy to have an onshore windfarm near them, compared with 62% nationally. More than 4,500 voters were surveyed.
Separately, 154 MPs were surveyed, of whom 12% of the Conservative members said they would be happy to have an onshore wind development in their area, while 74% of Labour MPs and 64% of Liberal Democrat MPs said they would support an onshore wind development in their community.
Environment – The Guardian.