Demand to improve NI’s flooding helpline

Image of flooding at Kinnego marina, January 2016
Image of flooding at Kinnego marina, January 2016

A telephone line for flooding victims in Northern Ireland needs to be improved, the Audit Office said.

Around 16% of callers abandoned efforts to make contact with official agencies last year.

Comptroller and auditor general Kieran Donnelly’s report said improvement had been slow and too many calls dropped. But it noted relationships between those responsible for responding had strengthened.

Mr Donnelly said: “My report recommends that work is needed to ensure that the Flooding Information Line (FIL), the main source of contact for those affected by flooding, is improved and that further work is undertaken to ensure that new flood defence assets are completed on time and within budget.”

The report said the implementation of improvements had been slow and recommended that the Rivers Agency continued to work with the Government’s Enterprise Shared Services to ensure the service met the public’s needs.

An estimated 46,000 properties are within an area likely to be flooded once a century.

Rivers Agency manages a network of culverts, sea defences and tidal barriers and works with Transport NI, Northern Ireland Water, the fire service and others during major incidents..

The audit office added: “The three flood response agencies highlighted other problems with the FIL including emergency flood calls failing to connect and reports from PSNI that they could not get through to FIL on 15 November 2015.”

The Department for Finance and Personnel said that was not reflective of the overall service and the technical fault causing the issue had been rectified.

Audit Office findings included:

:: New flooding defences at Moneymore cost 85% more than planned at £2.2 million because prices were inflated during a buoyant economy.

:: A project at the Mount Vernon stream in Belfast was 231% over budget, £590,000, due to inaccurate estimates and uncertain design.

:: Most projects between 2007 and 2015 were over budget in time or cost.

Mr Donnelly welcomed the effective implementation of the EU Floods Directive and was pleased the relationship between those responsible for responding was strengthening.

“However there is still room to improve the systems for preventing and managing flooding in Northern Ireland.”