Catchment Partnerships: Funding

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at on 9 May 2024.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

How much funding his Department plans to provide for catchment partnerships in the 2024-25 financial year.

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

One hundred catchment-based approach partnerships are set out in the plan for water. The catchment-based approach is exactly the right one— I agree with the decision taken by my right hon. Friend on that—and is exactly the approach that we are taking. In the financial year, £15,000 is allocated to each catchment for that.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The plan for water is starting to work in relation to community partnerships: next week, the East Suffolk Catchments Partnership will publish the plan for the River Deben. However, could I encourage my right hon. Friend to try to accelerate some of those partnerships, potentially by increasing the funding from £15,000 per partnership to £50,000, so that every single partnership can have a full-time employee to really drive this action forward?

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. What we are doing is twofold. First, we are increasing funding: she will have seen that, yesterday, we announced an uplift of £11.5 million for local community-led projects to improve river catchments. Alongside that, we are looking at some major interventions in catchments, such as on the River Wye, where we allocated £35 million. We are taking a targeted approach to catchment-specific issues; in that catchment, the issue was chicken litter. The phosphate was going into the River Wye, so we are funding anaerobic digesters as a targeted way of taking a catchment approach.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Justice)

Sewage has been discharged into our rivers for 3.6 million hours, including the River Thames in my constituency. Funding is only part of cleaning up this mess: the whole water sector is broken and needs to be put into special measures, so what is the Secretary of State’s long-term plan for tackling these issues, or is he content to keep following Labour’s lead and to take up our policies?

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The first thing I would mention is the £4.5 billion of investment in the Thames tideway tunnel over the past eight years, which is going to significantly improve the water quality of the River Thames. Alongside that, we are stepping up inspections, with a fourfold increase in inspections; we are tackling bonuses in companies that are guilty of pollution; and we are taking much tougher enforcement action, with the biggest ever prosecution of water firms by the Environment Agency. A whole range of actions, coupled with the plan for water, is bringing additional investment into the sector and taking a catchment by catchment approach.