Staff ethic went ‘above duty of care’ finds report into MK flood response

Friday 3 January 2020

 

  • Emergency response from council recognised in independent report
  • MK had never previously experienced rainfall of this intensity – experts said there was only 1 in 800 chance of this happening
  • Tackling the climate emergency is at the heart of the council’s budget proposals for 2020/21
  • Milton Keynes Council has responded to recommendations and is taking action, including better communication, investment in asset management, research into flood prevention for properties below road level, and greater consideration of flood risks when planning future development

Milton Keynes Council’s Cabinet is to receive an independent report on 13 January on the unprecedented flooding that affected people in 1,000 homes and businesses in Milton Keynes last May, and on the emergency response from MK Council and other public services.

Around 500 homes were flooded internally, roads were closed and utilities were disrupted by the rain on 27 May 2018. At its peak, rain was falling at 115mm per hour, causing unprecedented surface water levels, which experts said MK only had a 1 in 800 chance of experiencing.

MK Council, emergency services and utility companies were among those taking action, with a respite centre set up and emergency accommodation found for people (and pets) flooded out of their homes.  Councillors called for an independent report after public concern that more could have been done to prevent and respond to the flooding.

Independent reviewers AECOM asked for feedback from more than 6,000 residents and 300 businesses based in the affected areas, as well as speaking to the main organisations involved in the response.  Around 350 local people came forward with comments.

Findings in the report include:

  • Better communication and systems between partners could have led to the rainfall being classed as a ‘major incident’ which could have ensured more co-ordinated response efforts.
  • The condition of local drains was not the principal factor in the flooding, as even drains operating at their optimal level would not have coped with the significant rainfall seen in May. A sewer in Newport Pagnell was found to have been blocked which would not have helped the situation, but flooding would still have been expected. Anglian Water have now cleared the blockage and carried out further sewer improvement works in the area. MK Council will continue working more closely with partners to co-ordinate management and maintenance.
  • Improved communications with residents and parishes would aid communities. The council is working with parish and town councils on engagement around community flood planning, council maintenance regimes and building good working relationships and improved flood management.
  • Investigate measures to manage the impacts of climate change on communities, including the risk of flooding to properties sitting below the road and surrounding land, with reducing impermeable surfaces such as in some car parks.
  • The Council is investing £165m in improving council housing and will use some of this money to build flood resilience into these homes. The council is also working with flood partners across the area to ensure that private owners have the best information on how to make their homes safer. 

The full response to the recommendations in the report is being published. Some of the actions being taken include:

  • Milton Keynes Council is currently reviewing water management concerns around Newport Pagnell and Water Eaton Brook with its partners, including the Environment Agency. Cabinet is proposing to take forward funding to support alleviation requirements to assist in future flood mitigation for this area.
  • The council is already planning a study to identify areas where only a major capital flood risk scheme would improve local resilience, which is supported by the report. Some of this work is already underway with parish councils in Stoke Goldington, Newport Pagnell and Woughton.

Meetings are also taking place with affected communities and the council’s flood management team is keen to work with parishes and communities to better understand local risk and develop community flood plans.  Please contact llfa@milton-keynes.gov.uk if you would like to take part.

Councillor Emily Darlington, Cabinet Member for Public Realm said: “Climate change means that we’re likely to experience more severe weather, so it’s important that we learn the lessons from this report and work with all communities and partners to build flood resilience and mitigate effects.”