CASH shortfalls could leave the district open to greater risk of flooding, according to a hard-hitting new scrutiny report.

The report, drawn up in the wake of the devastating floods of Boxing Day 2015, warns that Bradford Council’s current budgets for keeping culverts and watercourses clear will not be adequate to meet the challenge posed by “accelerating climate change risks”.

It calls for an urgent review of the way the Council funds its drainage maintenance work, along with 25 other recommendations.

The draft report has been published as days of heavy rain in the Bradford district have seen river levels swell once more.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cllr Jeanette Sunderland pictured by the River Aire at Apperley Bridge. A report into how to prevent future flooding is being scrutinised.  Picture: CHRIS BOOTH
Cllr Jeanette Sunderland by the River Aire at Apperley Bridge

Councillor Kevin Warnes, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “It’s a timely reminder ahead of our meeting that we are going to face weather events that are a challenge, that we can’t ignore.”

The cross-party Environment and Waste Management scrutiny committee has drawn up the report after months of work, including two evidence-gathering sessions, and is set to finalise it at a meeting on Tuesday.

It will be the second Council scrutiny report on flooding to be published, after a separate investigation into the authorities’ immediate response to the 2015 floods found major shortcomings.

This report, into long-term water management measures across the district, says current Council budget constraints only allow them to react to drainage problems rather than anticipating them.

The aftermath of the 2015 floods in Esholt

The clean-up after the 2015 floods in Bradford

It says the maintenance budget “has not been increased since the 1990s”, and most work involves “minor bits of repairs”, usually only when someone had made a complaint.

The report also calls for an urgent review into the way Council planners check the drainage schemes built into new housing developments.

It says these are not routinely inspected after they are built, unlike roads, which are “inspected to death” because they will become the Council’s responsibility.

Cllr Warnes said this meant any problems were often only discovered years later, once the developers had moved on, leaving homeowners “with the bill in terms of sorting out the problem”.

He said throughout the sessions, the impact of dwindling Council budgets on its ability to prevent flooding “came through loud and clear”.

The report also highlights the role volunteers could play in creating and maintaining habitats and sustainable drainage schemes in parks.

It highlights the cumulative impact of people's small-scale home improvements, such as paving over driveways or building conservatories, on the risk of flash-flooding, and calls on the Council to promote permeable driveways.

And it calls on the Council to identify land required for current and future flood management, to protect it from development.

Councillor Martin Smith (Ilkley), the Conservative spokesman for planning, questioned why the scrutiny review had taken so long.

He said “There’s nothing that’s rocket science in there, and it should have been done much sooner.”

The Council’s Liberal Democrat leader, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, helped flooding victims in Apperley Bridge when the Boxing Day floods hit.

Yesterday, the Environment Agency issued an alert about the high level of the River Aire there, as days of heavy rain took their toll.

Cllr Sunderland (Idle and Thackley) said the report didn’t go far enough and laid too much of the blame on Government funding cuts.

She said: “I find it a little bit depressing, the report. There’s a little bit of hand-wringing, ‘There’s nothing we can do’.

“There are some things we can do, it’s just a question of setting them as a priority.”

As an example, she said Bradford Council had recently given planning permission for 45 new homes at flood-prone Apperley Bridge - a move she criticised.

Cllr Warnes (Green, Shipley) said: “I would say that the report is comprehensive, the recommendations are wide-ranging, we spent many, many hours taking evidence from council officers and partner agencies.

“Other councillors, including Jeanette, were invited to contribute to the process. Of course, as a committee we continue to welcome any contributions -the meeting itself isn’t until next Tuesday.


“I would just add that there’s no getting away from the fact that the cuts in central Government support for Bradford Council have put pressure on every service the Council manages, including its flood resilience work. It’s undeniable.”

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, who leads on planning matters at Labour-led Bradford Council, said: “We are extremely grateful for the hard work done by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee members and supporting officers to produce this report.

“We will read it carefully and consider all 26 of the recommendations contained.”