FLOOD defence schemes across the South West have received a boost of £721,000 after the Environment Agency’s South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee agreed to increase funding by 20%.

The Committee, which is made up of local authority representatives from across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, agreed to contribute £721,000 to reduce flood risk in local communities in 2013-2014. This is an increase of 20 per cent in funding compared to last year.

The money will be raised through an existing levy on council tax and will be used to deliver important local projects and develop new schemes to compete for funding from the central government budget, allocated by Defra.

The funding decision was made at a meeting of the Committee on Thursday, 17 January 2012.

The list of projects to be funded by the levy and national funding will be confirmed at the Environment Agency Board meeting on 8 February 2012.

The Committee will be looking to use the money raised to benefit communities in Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly.

Committee chairman James Morrish said: "The increase of 20 per cent is a clear statement of the Committee’s determination to address the backlog of flood defence needs in Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly, particularly following the repeated flooding throughout 2012 which saw over 1,000 properties flooded in 200 locations.

"In these difficult financial times I am pleased that the local authorities have seen the need to support reducing flood and coastal erosion risk. The councils in our region are leading the way in making reducing flood risk a real priority and recognising the essential need to increase funding. The programmes that we will be delivering next year cover all sources of flooding and have had to be prioritised to match available funds.

"This funding decision shows the commitment and recognition that councils in the South West are putting on helping reduce flood risk in local communities."

Over five million people in England and Wales are at risk from flooding from rivers and the sea. Those in flood risk areas should sign up to the Environment Agency’s free flood warning system – the mostimmediate and localised source of information on flooding – by calling 0845 9881188 or visiting www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood