In March 2014 a division of HM Treasury commissioned an independent peer review of the maintenance of the Environment Agency’s flood and coastal risk management (FCRM) assets following the flooding of winter 2013-14. The review has now been published (download below) as part of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into Flooding: Cooperation Across Government, 18 months after the review was completed. The review made 33 observations and 11 key recommendations.
The Environment Agency directly manages about £20 billion of flood and coastal risk management assets and has oversight of a further £15 billion that are managed by others. Mark Worsfold, formerly the Chief Engineer at water industry regulator Ofwat and now Director of Asset Management at South West Water completed the peer review in September 2014 for Infrastructure UK (IUK) which was then a unit within the Treasury’s Public Services and Growth Directorate that advised government on the long-term infrastructure needs of the UK. Both Ofwat and the Environment Agency are members of Infrastructure UK’s client working group which is now part of the Government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority.
Now eighteen months after its completion, the 2014 Worsfold Review of the Government’s Flood and Coastal Risk Management (FCRM) programme has finally been published at the request of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.
The Review was established to assess whether the Environment Agency can make improvements to its performance and achieve efficiencies in delivering its maintenance and investment programme in flood and coastal risk management (FCRM) assets. This involved comparing and contrasting the asset management practices, policies and procedures with those in place by the water and sewerage companies in England and Wales.
What were its findings?
The review identified a number of key areas around asset data and processes where improvements could be delivered. Based on this work the Review made 33 observations and 11 key recommendations.
The Review’s main conclusion was that the management of flood defence assets is primarily driven by asset condition, which does not help the Environment Agency forecast service and expenditure requirements. It found that investment decisions around the maintenance of existing flood assets are not as transparent as those associated with the creation or enhancement of new flood defences. It goes on to suggest that this has highlighted the need to improve investment planning processes and capabilities for modelling and predicting operating and capital costs.
The review proposed that such costs should be examined on the basis of lowest whole life cost and should start to be considered on a total expenditure basis (whilst recognising that operating cost and capital costs may be both defined and incentivised differently).
The review identified a number of key areas around asset data, communication and processes where improvements could be delivered. In particular it highlighted the need to improve:
The 11 key findings from the Review are summarised in Appendix C of the report, starting on page 102.
On the publication of the Review, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP said:
“It has taken 18 months and an intervention from my Committee to get this Review published and into the public domain.
“Mark Worsfold’s Review showed that the condition of the Environment Agency’s vital flood defence assets showed a worrying decline in 2014.”
ADA is concerned that it has taken over 18 months for the findings of the review to come to light. ADA is keen however to work with the Environment Agency, Defra and other risk management authorities in order to help deliver improvements across all of the key recommendations contained in the review. Closer partnership working between Risk Management Authorities must play a key role in delivering improvements in the management and maintenance of flood and coastal risk management assets, including watercourses, in the future.