Environment Agency: 'Could have done better over flooding'

The Environment Agency chairman has admitted to ITV News that "we could have done better" in tackling the flooded areas in Somerset. But Lord Smith defended the agency's priorities, saying they were working with a "purse that was not limitless."

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'No bottomless purse' on flood defences

Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith said there is "no bottomless purse" on flood defences, meaning that "difficult decisions" had to be made on which areas to protect.

Yes, agricultural land matters and we do whatever we can with what we have to make sure it is protected. Rules from successive governments give the highest priority to lives and homes; and I think most people would agree that this is the right approach.

But this involves tricky issues of policy and priority; town or country, front rooms or farmland?

Flood defences cost money; and how much should the taxpayer be prepared to spend on different places, communities and livelihoods - in Somerset, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, or East Anglia?

There's no bottomless purse, and we need to make difficult but sensible choices about where and what we try to protect.

– Lord Smith, Environment Agency chairman writing in The Daily Telegraph

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