In a frankly silly piece in the Telegraph Dan Hodges fails to understand the difference between the central State micro-managing at local level, and the central State's role in providing additional support to local authorities in response to disasters and emergencies. Perhaps the editor of the DT will send him to spend a week with the FEMA in the US to learn the difference.
However, the disastrous flooding on the Somerset levels does raise a Localist issue. If taxes are determined and raised locally to pay for local services including flood defence, doesn't this mean that people in areas prone to flooding will pay more tax than those in higher areas, or have lower standards in other local services? The answer has to be yes. Just as insurance premiums should be linked to the actual risk, so that I, at 120' above sea level, should not be paying extra buildings insurance premiums for those who live on the flood plain below. The land of the Somerset levels without drainage and pumping would be worthless for agriculture; those who enjoy the economic benefits of maintaining it as productive land must pay the cost of doing so. If the cost is uneconomic, then they will abandon the land back to the geese. Let's stop distorting the market.
The role of the central State must be confined to ensuring that flood protection is workable - and that means joined-up, literally. Building a river wall at 5.23m AOD in one London borough will not be of much benefit if its neighbour only builds at 4.90m.