The Pitt Review of lessons learned from floods in 2007 made 92 recommendations. The Review was based on four core principles:
· Start with the needs of those who have suffered flooding or are at risk
· Change will only happen with effective leadership across the board
· We must be willing to work together and share information
· We must be much clearer about who does what
We have been through the Review to look closely at who it recommended shoud have responsibility for the various aspects of flood risk management, rescue and relief services. It’s interesting to consider whether Pitt’s recommendations have been implemented in your area because the key principles start with your needs and advocate good information flow and transparency.
Pitt recommends that the government and the insurance industry ‘work together to deliver a public education programme setting out the benefits of insurance in the context of flooding.’ Government is tasked with reviewing and updating Insurance for all: A good practice guide for providers of social housing, and with disseminating it effectively ‘to support the creation of insurance with rent schemes for low income households’ (Insurance for all appears rather to be defunct?). ‘Flood risk should be made part of the mandatory search requirements when people buy property, and should form part of Home Information Packs.’ Pitt recommends that developers and architects should be incorporating flood resilience into designs for the future. The Government aimed to incorporate appropriate measures as requirements in Building Regulations when they were revised in 2010 (But did this happen?). The Cabinet Office should provide advice to ensure that all Local Resilience Forums have effective and linked websites providing public information before, during and after an emergency. The Government should establish a programme to support and encourage individuals and communities to be better prepared and more self-reliant during emergencies, allowing the authorities to focus on those areas and people in greatest need.
Pitt concludes that ‘government leadership should be supported by clear oversight of all flood risk management activity and the Environment Agency’s risk management responsibilities extended accordingly’ (What will that mean in Wales where the EA, The Countryside Council for Wales and the Forestry Commission have merged as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) from 1 April 2013?). Pitt suggests that the work carried out by the Environment Agency is not as transparent as it could be. Many responses stated that they never see the Environment Agency clearing rivers of vegetation or dredging, despite the fact that the work ahs been done. Pitt recommends that the EA publishes its schedules of work to ensure that the maintenance work that they perform is recognised. The EA is tasked to work with ‘local responders’ to raise awareness in flood risk areas, identifying ‘a range of mechanisms to warn the public, particularly the vulnerable, in response to flooding.’ The EA and the Met Office should urgently complete the production of a sliding scale of options for greater personalisation of public warning information, including costs, benefits and feasibility.
A central theme of the Pitt Review is local leadership: ‘Direction and leadership from the centre needs to be matched at the community level.’ Local Authorities (LAs) bear the brunt of responsibility for implementing the recommendations: ‘The Review believes that the role of local authorities should be enhanced so that they take on responsibility for leading the coordination of flood risk management in their areas. LAs already have a substantial role because of their responsibilities for ordinary watercourses, drainage, highways and planning. Their place-shaping role and local democratic accountability will help to ensure that the right local action is taken.’ LAs were to extend eligibility for home improvement grants and loans to include flood resistance and resilience products for properties in high flood risk areas (Did this happen?). LAs were also tasked to compile ‘a local register of all the flood risk management and drainage assets (both underground and overland), including details of their condition and responsible owners’. LAs were to establish ‘mutual aid agreements in accordance with the guidance currently being prepared by the Local Government Association and the Cabinet Office.’ Meanwhile ‘upper tier’ LAs ‘should be the lead responders in relation to multi-agency planning for severe weather emergencies at the local level and for triggering multi-agency arrangements in response to severe weather warnings and local impact assessments.’ Upper tier LAs should also establish Oversight and Scrutiny Committees to review work by public sector bodies and essential service providers in order to manage flood risk.
Stakeholders and communities
The Review recommends that ‘all stakeholders with responsibilities relating to flood risk to record and share relevant information and expertise’. Pitt acknowledges many local groups who want to take action to alleviate flood risk in their communities, remarking that this kind of scheme can end up being too low a priority for the Environment Agency. The onus is placed on central government to encourage ‘more local communities to promote innovative schemes, including contributing towards the costs themselves, with appropriate technical support from local authorities and the Environment Agency. Locally funded flood defences should become a bigger feature of this country’s flood risk management, not an exception brought about through unusual circumstances as they are now.’ Local authority contact centres should take the lead in dealing with general enquiries from the public during and after major flooding, redirecting calls to other organisations when appropriate.
Pitt suggests the setting up of a number of groups and committees. The Risk and Regulation Advisory Council is to explore how the public can improve their understanding of community risks, including those associated with flooding (and the government should then implement its findings). Local Recovery Coordination Groups should make early recommendations to elected LA members about longer-term regeneration and economic development opportunities. Oversight and Scrutiny Committees should prepare annual summaries of actions taken locally to manage flood risk and implement the Pitt Review. These reports should be public and reviewed by Government Offices and the Environment Agency. Local Resilience Forums should continue to develop plans for door-knocking, coordinated by local authorities, to enhance flood warnings before flooding and to provide information and assess welfare needs once flooding has receded.