Council tax could rise to fund River Thames Scheme cash shortfall

By David Lee  Follow me on

01:23PM, Friday 10 April 2020


Council tax could rise to fund River Thames Scheme cash shortfall

Council tax bills in the Royal Borough could be increased to plug a multi-million pound funding shortfall for the long-awaited River Thames Scheme.

The project, which is expected to cost £640 million, proposes building three flood alleviation channels alongside the Thames to protect homes and businesses from flooding.

The first channel will run from Datchet, which was submerged during the floods of 2014, through Surrey to Teddington.  Funding for the project is being provided by the Government and local authorities in the affected region.

The Royal Borough has already committed £10 million but said an additional £43 million is needed in order to complete the Berkshire section of the project.

A council spokeswoman said: “Currently, funding for the Berkshire scheme has not been resolved but we will continue to work with the River Thames Scheme to identify funding for this part of the scheme in the future. We are looking at a number of options, including the possible introduction of a flooding levy which would add a small amount to council tax over a number of years to fund the Berkshire section of the River Thames Scheme.

“This requires the government to introduce a legislative change which we will continue to lobby for once we are in a position to do so after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cllr Ewan Larcombe (National Flood Prevention Party, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury) told the Express he feared the Berkshire section of the project would not go ahead if the council failed to stump up more funding.

He said: “While the borough carry on as they are I can’t see how that channel will go ahead and we’ll just be left with Datchet, Horton, Wraysbury and Old Windsor at serious risk of flooding.”

Cllr Larcombe said he did agree in principle with the proposal of a flood levy.

Datchet councillor eyes Surrey County Council merger over flooding dispute

David Lee Windsor Express

03:27PM, Thursday 23 April 2020

A councillor has floated the idea of Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury ward becoming part of Surrey County Council due to frustration over River Thames Scheme funding.

Work on the £640 million scheme, which proposes building three flood alleviation channels alongside the Thames, is yet to start due to a cash shortfall.

The Royal Borough has pledged £10 million to the project but said an additional £43 million is needed to complete the Berkshire section, with a flooding levy one of the suggestions to plug the gap.

But Cllr Ewan Larcombe, who represents the villages on behalf of the National Flood Prevention Party, said the Royal Borough needed to replace words with ‘prompt action’.

He raised the possibility of the ward breaking away and joining Surrey County Council who pledged to spend £290 million on long-term flood risk management in October, including a contribution to the River Thames Scheme.

Cllr Larcombe said: “Not only has the Royal Borough failed for years to arrange the partnership funding required for similar protection to the villages downstream but the ordinary watercourses that are an important and necessary feature of the land drainage infrastructure have been allowed to deteriorate to a state where they no longer perform their function.

“My ward is on the extreme edge of the borough and used to be in Buckinghamshire. Then we were moved into Berkshire so I don’t see a problem moving on into Surrey – subject to agreement of course.”

A Royal Borough spokeswoman said Datchet could only be transferred to a neighbouring county via a boundary review.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) are charged with running such reviews.

Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury) said he was ‘astounded’ Cllr Larcombe had chosen a time of national crisis to raise his boundary review proposal.

He added: “The ward is an integral part of the Royal Borough, as is demonstrated by one of its ward councillors, Gary Muir, being deputy mayor, and myself being a cabinet member and two out of three ward councillors having a strong voice, representing the ward at the heart of the council.

“The council has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the River Thames Scheme by budgeting over £10 million to this scheme to date and committing up to another £43 million, subject to Government enabling us to raise the funding to repay that amount.”