A committee of MP’s have said that the Government is too focused on short-term reactive responses to increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

In a report published today, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warns that Government’s approach to strengthening the UK’s resilience to society-wide risks lacks the required robust leadership, oversight and urgency.

Government has identified that a ‘whole of society’ approach is required to develop resilience to the national risks the UK faces. However, the PAC’s report finds that respective roles in this area at all levels of government as well as private and voluntary sectors and the public have not been clarified, leading to uncertainty about what actions to take.

For example, public awareness of the risk of surface water flooding is low and it is not always clear who to contact to report incidents when they happen.

Local organisations have a critical role in developing the UK’s resilience, for example by preparing emergency plans either for wide ranges of different scenarios or specific events like flooding. The PAC’s inquiry found that central government does not check local plans to see if they are fit for purpose, and does not know if local organisations have the capacity and capability to fulfil their functions effectively.

The PAC’s inquiry finds that three extreme weather risks – high temperatures and heatwaves, storms and surface water flooding – have no targets set by Government for levels of preparedness of resilience to them. There are also no levels set for the amount of risk the Government is willing to accept for these kinds of events (its risk appetite); without which, informed decisions cannot be made on trade-offs between long- and short-term priorities, investment or funding allocation in priority areas.

The report warns that if lessons are not learned on leadership and oversight for system-wide risk, this may come at a high cost to individuals, the economy and society in the future. It also reiterates the PAC’s long-running calls for the Government to create a Chief Risk Officer, warning that existing roles do not adequately address cross-cutting risks in government and the identification and resolution of system-wide concerns.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic must act as a permanent warning, carved in stone for any government. Events can and will take place in which our communities and systems of governance are sorely tested, and it is therefore incumbent on decision-makers to foster built-in resilience and long-term planning. This is nowhere more true than in the case of extreme weather.

Unfortunately, a theme of our scrutiny across the board is that government can be overly focused on the short-term response. This is not a sustainable approach to dealing with extreme weather events. Experience shows us the deadly impact of such events – thousands of people tragically died from the heat in summer 2022, and Storm Eunice left millions without power. Government must now act with urgency to ensure long-term planning and investment is in place for infrastructure which can endure through even the most challenging of times.”


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