I have received some answers to Parliamentary Questions concerning floods and the Environment Agency’s work and response.
The Agency is responsible for 22,600 miles of main river. In the year 2014/15 they dredged just 120 miles of this estate, or 0.5% of the rivers.
They spent a combined total of £45 million on cleaning, weeding and dredging rivers and river banks, out of their total budget of over £1 billion. That is under 5% of the budget.
The Environment Agency is responsible for 347 fixed pumping stations, including the Foss one in York which was deemed to be overwhelmed and led to the decision to flood parts of the city. The Agency did not put in additional mobile pumps, on the grounds that they judged there was too much water to shift using such devices.
The Agency itself has 245 mobile pumps. Along with other emergency services there were 425 mobile pumps available in December 2015 to deal with floods. 42 of these pumps were sent to the north of England to assist with the additional rainfall and river flows there.
The picture which emerges is of an Agency reluctant to undertake conventional maintenance and cleansing of rivers. There are also questions to be asked about the availability and the use of pumps, and how they co-ordinate with other emergency and public protection services to fly pumps in at short notice to places under stress.