A NORTH Yorkshire MP has said flood protection for communities must take priority over cost cutting.

Anne McIntosh, MP for Thirsk, Malton and Filey and the Conservative chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee, made the comments as she launched a report on winter floods.

Miss McIntosh said: “We have repeatedly called on the Government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out to minimise flood risk, yet funding for maintenance funding remains at a bare minimum.

“Ministers must take action now to avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the winter floods.

“The committee calls for fully funded plans to address the current backlog of dredging and water - course maintenance as well as to maintain the growing numbers of man-made flood defences.

“Regular work to dredge and keep rivers clear can be an essential flood prevention measure, yet this is exactly what gets squeezed out when budgets are tight. The Government needs to recognise the importance of regular maintenance work and put it on an equal footing with building new defences.

“Local knowledge is key and flood risk management priorities must reflect the local circumstances.”

The committee has also asked the Government to address the confusion over drain maintenance responsibilities through a widespread education campaign.

The report warns that it is essential that the Environment Agency funding cuts do not lead to unin - tended consequences where funding is redirected to one operational area to the detriment of another.

It also calls for a reassurance from Defra that frontline flood jobs at the Environment Agency will not be cut.

The committee identifies the current split between capital and revenue budgets as a major barrier to targeting funding according to local priorities.

Miss McIntosh said: “We want clarity for everyone when it comes to flood funding budgets. We see no reason why the Government cannot move to a total expenditure approach for flood funding to allow more flexibility to spend in the most effective way.”