We had a little discussion earlier about the purpose of levies in our consideration of one of the earlier clauses. The Minister said that the regulations may vary. In 2004-05, the rules about how the money could be spent were changed. Instead of the local regional Environment Agency being able, if you like, to hand out the grants or carve up the funds, from 2004-05 onwards the national Environment Agency took such decisions. In clause 17, we now have the opportunity for a local levy to be raised.
The problem that I have is that it is the same peopletechnically, the landownerswho will be asked to pay towards the local levy who are already paying their contribution towards the internal drainage boards. Perhaps another way would be through council tax payers; essentially, the same people would be asked to take this on. Furthermore, concern has been expressed that, to maintain the maximum flexibility in public accountability, the levy should be made available to fund all sources of local flood risk. It is really a case of whether that should encompass all sources of local flood risk in the area.
My main concern in asking the Minister to clarify clause 17 is about the local levy. Would the local levy fund against a localised flooding risk or the areas that we have just had an exchange about, in respect of a downward trend in the funding? Are we being asked for local levies to be raised so that they can plug the gap if no funding is immediately to hand through the normal sources of funding? I am raising our concerns about how the levy will be raised, from whom it will be raised, and what type of risks the funding will be used for.