ADA responds to NAO flood resilience report

ADA responds to NAO flood resilience report

Kempsey Flood Aleviation Scheme (Environment Agency)

The National Audit Office (NAO) published its latest value for money report on flood resilience in England on 15 November.

The NAO’s report reaches some pretty sobering conclusions about a lack of delivery of outcomes as originally planned, both for the capital and maintenance programmes, and an apparent reluctance by Defra to set clear long-term measures and targets for flood resilience.

They warn that under current Environment Agency (EA) plans, forty per cent fewer properties in England will be protected from flooding compared to the number forecast in 2020 as part of the 2021-2027 FCERM capital programme. The EA now expects to be able to protect 200,000 properties by 2027, instead of the original 336,000 planned, as 500 of the 2,000 planned projects will no longer go ahead. This is despite the doubling in government capital investment for flood risk management to £5.2 billion between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2027.

The NAO also raised concerns that a focus on short-term funding is undermining efforts to meet maintenance targets. By the EA’s own analysis, it is not maintaining flood defences to a level that optimises value for money. Consequently, 203,000 properties are at an increased risk of flooding, because more EA assets are below the required condition.

Responding to the report, ADA’s CEO, Innes Thomson, said:

“ADA is pleased that this NAO report has focused on asset maintenance, something that many ADA members regard as the nuts and bolts of flood risk management.

“Many of the NAO’s recommendations align with ADA’s recent representations to the Secretary of State. Top of that list is a recommendation for Defra, the EA, and Treasury to come up with a plan to switch money from the capital programme into asset maintenance. We urgently would like to see this policy matter progressed.

“However, there remain some structural gaps in our consideration of flood risk management in England. Firstly, a lot of the figures quoted in the report focus on the impact on properties alone. ADA would also highlight impacts to infrastructure, our natural environment, and productive agricultural land, and it is encouraging that NaFRA2 will consider some of these. Perhaps that will give us a route towards a broader suite of metrics for measuring flood resilience in England.

“Secondly, the consideration of maintenance has really focused on assets in high consequence systems. Far fewer assets are in their required condition within medium and lower consequence systems than within high consequence systems, and these assets, whilst impacting fewer properties, often still have significant benefits in terms of wider impacts.

“Thirdly, there are maintenance activities that go beyond flood defence assets, specifically the capacity and condition of our lowland main rivers. It is important that we do not lose sight of how our lowland watercourses are functioning, so that our interventions enhance the natural environment and give them the capacity to evacuate flood waters.

“We also need to strengthen the resources, skills and capacity of all Risk Management Authorities (RMAs). Where the EA has concerns regarding the lack of direct control over projects delivered by other RMAs, perhaps the best solution would be to fully allocate funding directly to those public bodies, of course, with the governance responsibility to go with that.

“Whilst, the EA is not without its own challenges, leadership of the sector starts at the top and must be firmly led by Government, giving all RMAs, including the EA, the confidence, support and encouragement to deliver a top-class water level and flood risk management service for the public. Failure to do that has significant knock-on effects for everyone, our economy, and our environment.”



Notes to Editors



ADA is the membership organisation for those involved in drainage, water level and flood risk management. Its members include Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs), the Environment Agency, Regional Flood Defence Committees, Local Authorities, Natural Resources Wales, the Northern Ireland Rivers Agency, Consultants, Contractors and Suppliers.

ADA is involved in a wide range of work for and on behalf of its members helping to exchange ideas towards solving common problems and finding new, better ways of working. ADA responds to consultations from the Government, either on behalf of members or assisting with individual member responses. It represents all interests nationally and locally in relation to drainage, water level and flood risk management, for example, in relation to legislation and public inquiries. ADA acts together with other organisations to pursue the Association’s objectives, including linking to Europe through ADA’s membership of EUWMA, the European Union of Water Management Associations.

ADA obtains and shares information on matters of importance and interest to members, and provides advice on technical and administrative problems. ADA is supported by a volunteer network of branches which bring together members for meetings at a regional level. ADA organises exhibitions and meetings for the benefit of members, maintains a website at and publishes the quarterly ADA Gazette.

ADA is a limited company with offices based at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. ADA welcomes enquiries from the press and can be contacted during normal weekday office hours on 02476 992889 or by e-mail at


For press enquiries please contact:

Eur Ing J Innes Thomson BSc CEng FICE

Chief Executive

Association of Drainage Authorities

Rural Innovation Centre, Avenue H, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire CV8 2LG




Ian Moodie MSci

Technical Manager

Association of Drainage Authorities

Rural Innovation Centre, Avenue H, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG

Office Tel: 02476 992 889



Ryan Dixon

Publications & Communications Officer

Association of Drainage Authorities

Rural Innovation Centre, Avenue H, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG

Office Tel: 02476 992 889