The Pitt review predicted the current crisis in 2008. Why did Conservative governments refuse to listen?
It has become an almost annual event. Heavy rain leads to widespread flooding, and people claim that we didn’t see it coming. Except we did. In 2007 the UK experienced a series of floods and the government commissioned a report from Michael Pitt, which stated: “The scale of the problem is, as we know, likely to get worse. We are not sure whether last summer’s events were a direct result of climate change, but we do know that events of this kind are expected to become more frequent. The scientific analysis we have commissioned as part of this review (published alongside this report) shows that climate change has the potential to cause even more extreme scenarios than were previously considered possible. The country must adapt to increasing flood risk.”
The Labour government acted on the report’s recommendations. Central government spending on flood defences increased by 10% in the financial year 2008-09, with an additional 10% increase in 2009-10. But then austerity happened. In 2011-12 and 2012-13, spending on flood defences was cut sharply.