Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Localism doesn't mean drowning

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.


Anonymous said...

Not so fast Raedwald, you burnt the coal and petrol that made the CO2 that warmed the planet that made the rains fall and the winds blow - so you should pay your bit like everybody else. Now you might say 'I don't believe all that Warmist C*&p', well that is irrelevant, HMG has decided we all pay carbon taxes on our leccy and gas so it must be true - or what matters more - you pay.

What is missed is the question do we as a society pay money to prevent or ameliorate this sort of thing? For the Somerset Levels we might just as well give every rural household £1M and tell them to P&*s Off - it would be cheaper - but would set an unfortunate precedent. The alternative is land-theft by stealth - aka the Do Nothing policy adopted by Defra. Don't expect a clear policy any time soon.

Then there is the build on the flood plain policy - because the Green Belt is a sacred election-loser. So one govt dept says don't build and another says you must build. Given such hypocrisy it seems fair that compo be paid when - as now - the chicken come home to roost. The rule of the market goes only so far.

Raedwald said...


Anyone who has bought or built a house on the flood plain knew or should have known exactly the risk - they rely on other people being taxed to keep them safe. And as Paul Daniels won't allow me to play in his riverside garden, why should I then have to pay to rescue it from flooding?

The disastrous floods of the 1250s destroyed the mediaeval city of Dunwich and many other east coast towns and villages. If only they hadn't caused all that global warming, eh?

And the UK has no housing shortage - only the south-east does, from internal and external migratory pressures. If only we could wean the NE, the NW and Wales from their tax dependency, create viable local economies and jobs and make those places as attractive as they once were for people to live ....

Anonymous said...

In all of the recent publicity of flooding and the political palaver surrounding the cumulus delivered aqueous inundation, it's not just rainfall, frequency and amounts which are key but it is nevertheless an important factor.

Not many people, in fact as far as I can see, no one has mentioned land management in upland areas of large catchments.

I don't know much of the upland areas of the Cotswolds and Plynlimon Ceredigion in Wales but I'll bet similar patters of land management could be identified.

In Yorkshire, Yorkshire water sold off, stopped managing or idiotically allowed draining of many and vast upland bog areas.

In the North York Moors the forestry commission, felled millions of trees. Plus, bigger grouse shooting moors were created by draining bog upland areas causing massively increased storm stream flow runoff - the consequences for the likes of Whitby on the Esk and Pocklington Beck, Derwent to Pickering and downstream to Malton have been dire. The same for the Ure, Wharfe, Aire, Calder flowing down to York.

It is typical in these times of thoughtless philosophy and instant experts and media propaganda, of the headless chicken syndrome of the green lunatic brigade that, they have totally ignored the reasons why floods have gotten that much worse - and it ain't rationale.

The EA, Defra, FoE, RSPB, Natural England and all and sundry - they jump up and down blaming God and man made emissions when the answer is much closer to home.
Making the people of Pickering liable to pay for the mistakes of a privatised water company, Forestry commission the idiots in government and quangos - is hardly on, is it?

G. Tingey said...

Also, non-one notices when "big guvmint" gets it right - & they do, occasionally.
Late last year we had a simultaneous serious storm-set & tidal surge in E Anglia / N Sea. The levels were higher than those of 1953.
Small amount of flooding & ( I think) 2 killed ... because the centrally-paid-for flood & sea defence put in place actually worked, shock horror.

At least half the problem is that spotted by both the "R's" ... guvmint "policy" facing in both directions & not sticking to either policy properly.
This automatically results in screw-ups, what a surprise (not)!

Matt said...

Roger: No, your argument is silly. If taken to its logical conclusion you advocate that a farmer in the remote Scottish highlands should be paying the same amount of Council Tax towards, say, policing as somebody living in a crime-ridden London borough. Flooding, whatever the "cause", is not going to affect upland areas to the same extent as it does lowlands - it's simple physics.

If you believe the "carbon" claptrap and really do think we can sensibly and reliably control the weather then taxpayers are universally clobbered for that already (and it has made no difference, save for making everyone poorer).

If there is any justification for Council Tax - and that is debatable, although it may be the lesser of several evils - then surely that justification is that the tax is appropriate to cover the cost of providing local services. Different areas are simply not equal in these regards, and no amount of socialist dogma will ever change that - geography and demographics are hugely varied.

Anonymous said...

Raedwald makes a good point about the folk of Somerset being at a bit of a disadvantage in that they have to spend more heavily than some on flood defences, drainage and dredging.

Of course they managed perfectly well throughout history, it is only since an all-encompassing national quango has "taken control" that the problems have begun.

Raedwald posits the idea that responsibilities such as these, if applied locally and funded locally by local people, would make them uncompetitive... I would suggest that Raedwald, sitting on a well drained hill, might have problems getting a decent water supply, he might have to provide pumps or storage facilities...

But supposing these costs were genuinely applied by local people at local level, and the central authority were to butt out and reduce their demands to something nearer to the 10% that they used to take 100 years back?

Would the local areas, each with their own peculiarities not be competitive, and would they not be able to encourage appropriate businesses and skills into their areas?

The only precedent we have for this, is the 1000 years or so, before our central government decided to nationalise everything during the 20th century.

Raedwald said...

right writes - Exactly so. For centuries the worth of the productive land has made it worthwhile to drain it - and if locals pay the cost, they will ensure it is managed in the most economical way, i.e. that the cost of drainage does not exceed the value added.

cuffleyburgers said...

It seems pretty obvious to me that flood control, dredging and so forth needs to be managed at a local level.

THe Norfolk broads have escaped the current nightmare that seems to have engulfed most of the rest of the country.

Part of the reason is doubtless the fact that flood control was not handed over to the criminal incompetents at DEA.

Anonymous said...

Up till about 10 years ago flood vulnerability was not a major issue, it seldom came up between buyer/seller or mortgagee - insurance would pay and the insurers relied on HMG to boost defences where needed. Plenty of folk bought their houses 20 or more years ago when the question never arose.

The insurers cut up rough when HMG started to row back prompting a nasty argument and some uncomfortable flutterings in the housing market followed - big problems and potentially big legal issues. After all, we can only build on flood plains.... So HMG and the insurers eventually cut a deal - slap on a £10/house tax (sorry, premium) to pay for ongoing damage claims. So like it or not we all pay a tax (sorry, premium) to cover the cost. HMG delighted - continue cutting the budget.

I live on the edge of a flood plain - no claim so far - but I do pay about double the usual rate and have a stiff excess in the event of flood. So yes, those at greater risk do pay for the privilege.

I disagree re local control, local work teams yes but one agency in total control - one place for the buck to stop and one big budget. As things stand games are played between the agencies and local councils as to who pays and who's election cycle is at risk. Worse still the legal responsibility for ditches etc is a total uncontrolled muddle - a very British muddle.

I am agnostic as to whether warming is a real issue, but what I am sure of is that carbon taxes will change matters not one iota, money down the flooded drain.

G. Tingey said...

Subsidiary, but important issue.
"Carbon Taxes" are a disgraceful scam.
GW ( & 90% AGW) is real ...
This certainly causes confusion ... & a huge waste of money.

Anonymous said...

A bit of topic, but a right bugbear with me, last time I looked we were still using inches, feet, yards and miles in this country, not ruddy meters and kilometres, plues lbs and ounces.
The biggest contributor to this is the BBC...grrrr

Anonymous said...

G Tingey, the management of flood defences in your area is still in the remit of your local Drainage Board. Not the EA.

John M said...

I like the idea of that. Would that mean I no longer have to subsidise the benefits and policing bills of places like Birmingham?

Anonymous said...

General note about choosing wisely when you are house-hunting:

It's all very well avoiding obvious flood plains and zones with a history of flooding. But even a historically dry zone can be adversely affected by development on land on a higher elevation, especially when that development drains all of it's runoff into existing channels. You can raise planning objections, but ultimately you have no say in the matter.


anon 2 said...

Well I think it would be nice if they do whatever they do "of the English, by the English, and for the English."

Oh - and in English too. Never mind all those nasty foreign measurements.

Flyinthesky said...

"Anonymous said...
A bit of topic, but a right bugbear with me, last time I looked we were still using inches, feet, yards and miles in this country, not ruddy meters and kilometres, plues lbs and ounces.
The biggest contributor to this is the BBC...grrrr"

The thing is the news editors use the measurment units that best convey the hysterical message intended.