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Government criticised by ex-minister: “mistake to cut flood defences.”

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for rain in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire areas, with many other areas in the south at risk of further flooding.

According to the Guardian, flood-stricken communities in the south, including parts of Somerset, Kent and Devon, have been left defenceless to adverse weather following the government funding cuts.

The missing schemes were highlighted by comparing the spending for 2010-11, the final year of Labour’s budget for flood defence spending, with the plans under the coalition.

Several schemes to improve flood management were postponed, totalling many millions of pounds. Since they came to power, the coalition has been heavily criticised for making cuts of almost £100m a year to flood defence spending.

The chairman of the Environment Agency, Chris Smith, said he welcomed the prime minister’s recent “money is no object” remark to cope with the effects of the storms, but said he wonders whether it will apply beyond the immediate crisis.

“I hope he will apply the same principle to the longer-term issues about improving our flood defences. One of the things that has worried me is whether flood defence is seen by the Treasury as a high enough priority,” he said.

According to Chris Smith, in order to maintain Britain’s current level of flood protection, there would have to be a £20m increase in the £600m budget, factoring in any inflationary increase.

Mr Chris Huhne, who served in the Cabinet from 2010 to 2012, said the Coalition made a “mistake by cutting the budget for flood defences."

“All governments have a tendency to solve today’s crisis at the expense of tomorrow’s.

“I’m afraid that’s what we did in 2010. We should have maintained flood defence spending at a higher level and we didn’t and I think that was a mistake,” he said.

He also indicated that the defence budget is being misused and needs to be directed towards flood protection.

“We need to just look at the investment in flood defences against some of the investment that’s going on elsewhere and going against some other public expenditure programmes.”