Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Monday, 7 December 2015

UK flooding, austerity and the media

UK flooding again tops the news, and I’m reminded of a series of posts I wrote after Christmas 2013. The first showed how austerity led to a sharp cut back on flood prevention. The second pointed out that the consensus was that spending on flood prevention should be rising because of climate change, but the environment minister was a climate skeptic. The third noted how the government had managed to deflect any significant criticism until now, but I thought surely that cannot last. At the time it became one of my most widely read posts, but when the government thereafter continued to avoid serious criticism except for a handful of articles I realised how weak our media had become in holding the government to account.

I have no idea if any of the most recent floods can be directly connected to the post 2010 cuts, but that is not how these things work. We cannot prove that each of these severe weather episodes are linked to climate change, but we work with probabilities. Unfortunately the media find it hard doing the same.

Here is the time series for spending that I found in the House of Commons library.