Somerset Rivers Authority to ask Ministers for legal powers to raise funds

The Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) today agreed to recommend to Ministers a funding option for future flood protection which could establish it as a new statutory body with legal powers to raise income.

It also agreed to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment for interim funding for the next financial year to carry on work already begun, until a future funding mechanism is in place.

The SRA agreed the preferred funding option, known as precepting, at a special Board meeting today (September 23), after partners had formally agreed responses within their own organisations – including all Somerset’s local authorities and the Internal Drainage Boards.

Now the SRA Board will make its recommendation to government Ministers, in response to the recently published Draft Funding Options Report compiled by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the SRA.

Ministers will then discuss next steps with the SRA in setting up a future funding mechanism.

“With the Government’s help we are seeking a long term, local funding solution for Somerset’s future additional flood protection, and we believe this is the best option,” said John Osman, chair of the SRA.

“It is key to finally solving the long-term issue of flooding which affects the whole county. The work of the SRA can’t stop flooding but it will reduce the frequency, duration and severity of a flood like that of 2013/14.

“In the short term we are also working to resolve the urgent need to identify funding for the coming financial year, in order to carry on the great deal of good work already begun.”

Under the precepting option, parliamentary legislation would establish the SRA as a new statutory body which could raise income countywide from householders and additionally from landowners/land occupiers outside Internal Drainage Board areas.

Detailed figures of what householders and landowners would be expected to pay have not yet been finalised and work is ongoing, but interim funding of £2.7m for the SRA for the current financial year, for example, would equal an increase of around 1% on total household council tax bills.

“Although flooding in 2013/14 directly affected homes and businesses on the Levels and Moors, the cost to the county as a whole was £147m. Other areas have also suffered from flooding in the past, it affects everything from business to tourism to travel, which is why we need a county wide solution,” said Mr Osman.

For full details about the precepting and other funding options, please see the Draft Funding Options Report on the SRA website at www.somersetriversauthority.org.uk

Ends

For more information (up until end September 23) please contact:
Sue Mitchinson
Communications Officer – Somerset Rivers Authority
Email: smitchinson@somerset.gov.uk
Tel: 01823 357676

From Thursday September 24, please contact:
Jonathan Hudston
Communications Manager – Somerset Rivers Authority
Email: jhudston@somerset.gov.uk
Tel: 01823 357676

Notes to editors

There are 11 partner organisations in the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) and their existing responsibilities and accountabilities will continue.

Through the SRA their work will become fully co-ordinated to ensure Somerset’s flood risk management benefits from their collective experience and knowledge.

They are:

Environment Agency
Mendip District Council
Natural England
Sedgemoor District Council
Somerset County Council
South Somerset District Council
Taunton Deane Borough Council
The Axe/Brue Internal Drainage Boards
The Parrett Internal Drainage Board
Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee
West Somerset Council