Valuation of other land in drainage district

Part of Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness 4:15 pm, 11th March 2019

I will be brief and will begin, as others have, by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome on bringing the Bill forward. When a number of constituents wrote to me urging that I support it, I wrote back confident that it would face either the chop or the Chope. However, it has got through, which we should all be grateful for. According to the Association of British Insurers, my constituency is the most likely in the country to flood, and in 2013 it did so, which is why the Minister is spending £100 million on a flood barrier for it. I am as grateful for that as I am for the five IDBs that work in my constituency.

I want to ask two brief questions. First, the Bill is clearly aimed at the south-west, and I will not pretend for a moment that I begrudge that. However, I would like some reassurance that the IDBs in my constituency that work so well together could, if they wanted, avail themselves of the opportunity to form a rivers authority. Would the Government look favourably on that sort of thing? I say that without wishing to indicate that those IDBs necessarily want to do so, but that option is working well for Somerset in its shadow form and will hopefully work well in the future. I would like to think that we, too, could have that potential benefit.

Secondly, as the expansion of areas that are rated for IDBs is permitted elsewhere in the country, and since we all know that drainage boards work and that their benefits often extend well beyond the areas that pay for them, I hope that the expansion of IDBs will reach not just Somerset but other areas. Unfortunately, councils such as mine in Boston are often affected financially by necessary and sensible rises in drainage rates filtering through to their bottom line. That effectively means that borough councils cannot responsibly raise taxes as much as they wish to, because the 2% cap on council tax might be disproportionately taken up by that rise in drainage rates. A rivers authority is one way of solving that problem, but it strikes me that it is not the only way.

I commend this excellent Bill, and the excellent Member who has brought it forward. I hope that he and the Minister will be able to tell me that it is not only the south-west that will benefit from it.