Boris Johnson 'must act now' to prevent future flooding, think tank says

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Boris Johnson walking along a flooded bank wearing wellies and surrounded by two soldiersImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Boris Johnson was criticised over his handling of the flooding situation in South Yorkshire last month

Prime minister Boris Johnson "must act now to prevent more devastating" floods in the North, a think tank has said.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North said twice as much had been spent on the clean-up of flooding than on prevention, including defences.

Last month, Mr Johnson was heckled by flood-hit residents in South Yorkshire following criticism of his handling of the crisis.

The government said it was "investing record amounts" to protect communities.

In its report, IPPR North said funding mechanisms for flood management were "clearly not fit for purpose".

It said the government "heavily favours London and the south-east of England" with these regions accounting for 60% of the planned expenditure on flood defences.

"Despite several serious flooding events in recent years and the impact of climate change on the overall flood risk in many areas, funding for flood management has been substantially scaled back," it said.

Image source, Richard McCarthy
Image caption,
Scores of people in South Yorkshire had to be evacuated from their homes or rescued after a month's worth of rain fell in 24 hours last month

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the north was set to receive £56m - 90% of a £62m pot - for flood schemes.

It also said between 2010-11 and 2018-19, it had invested £3bn in defences, of which £1.1bn went to places in the south of England, £1bn to northern communities and £0.9bn was spent in the Midlands.

The IPPR North report also suggested greater flood resilience relied on decisions about land use, agriculture and infrastructure including barriers and dams.

Report author and research fellow Jack Hunter called for the prime minister "to act now to prevent future devastation".

"Floods have a huge impact on our economy too, yet we spend less on preventing them than we do fixing the damage they cause," he said.

"This doesn't make sense and it must change."

Defra said: "We're investing a record £2.6bn on over 1,000 flood scheme across the country which will better protect 300,000 homes by 2021."

Since 2007, thousands of properties across the north of England have been affected by flooding as a result of storms and heavy rainfall.