UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage has called on the British government to divert money from the country’s expanding foreign aid budget to help communities in the UK affected by flooding.
In the aftermath of Storm Desmond, which battered parts of the UK over the weekend, questions are being asked as to whether the government is doing enough to keep the UK protected from flood events.
More than 5,200 properties were flooded and two people were killed as rains and heavy winds swept across parts of Ireland, Wales, the north of England and Southern Scotland over the weekend. The brunt of the storm hit Cumbria, which witnessed record rainfall, while in Cumbria and Lancashire 42,000 homes were left without power.
The Prime Minister David Cameron has said that a multi-million pound flood defence scheme built in Cumbria following a similar deluge in 2005 was “not enough” to keep the waters at bay. He added that some people might not be home for Christmas, the BBC has reported.
The failure of current flood defences to mitigate the problem has led Nigel Farage to criticise the government’s priorities when it comes to allocating spending. He took to Twitter this morning to call on the government to reallocate some of the foreign aid budget to help those at home in need.
The government should divert some of the ballooning foreign aid budget to help those affected by #StormDesmond.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 8, 2015
As a row threatened to overtake the Conservative government over spending on flood defences the environment secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: “It’s completely wrong [to say] that we are cutting flood defences. In fact, we are increasing real-terms spending on building our flood defences, we will be spending £2.3bn over the next six years, which represents a real-terms increase.”
However, that figure pales in comparison to the government’s foreign aid budget, which is fixed at 0.7 percent of GDP. In his recent budget statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced that the sum is expected to rise from £11.1 bn this year to hit £16.3bn by 2020.
Mr Osborne told the House of Commons it is “overwhelmingly in our national interest” to commit to foreign aid spending on that scale.
PwC UK have estimated the costs of damage caused by Storm Desmond to be in the region of £400m – £500m, with the insurance industry paying out between £250m and £325m.
Mohammad Khan, general insurance leader at PwC UK commented: “Clearly these are initial estimates as there is still uncertainty as to the number of properties and businesses affected. If the storm continues, the damage – and therefore the costs – could be significantly worse. Any additional rainfall – even 1cm-2cm – could cause flash flooding in rain affected areas as the ground is already saturated with water.”