The National Audit Office has published a new report looking at how well-prepared the country is for future extreme weather events.

The report sets out how central government coordinates, leads, supports and assures local activity, but does not cover local responses, such as local response plans. It also does not cover arrangements in the devolved nations. It aims to answer the following questions:

This report examines

  • Does the UK government have a clear vision and well-defined roles and responsibilities to manage national risks, such as extreme weather events, and the generic capabilities to deal with emergencies?
  • Does the UK government have a clear understanding of extreme weather events and the impacts that they can have in England?
  • Has the UK government taken appropriate action to prepare for, respond to, and prevent the potential impacts of, extreme weather events in England?


Extreme weather events can have devastating consequences for individuals, communities and businesses. Recent events have shown that government must do more to help prepare for and develop resilience to extreme weather.

Government continues to strengthen the arrangements in place to manage these risks. However, for the extreme weather risks we examined, government has yet to set out what outcome it is looking to achieve in managing these risks and the amount of risk that it is willing to accept in the pursuit of those outcomes (risk appetite).

Government does not know how much is being spent on managing extreme weather risks. Without this information it is difficult to conclude on whether its current approach represents value for money.

Extreme weather is becoming more frequent and severe. Government needs to increase its focus on reducing these risks and making the system more resilient to the worsening impacts of extreme weather.

Given the dynamic nature of risks over the medium- and long-term, even where government makes improvements, they may not be keeping pace with changes in climate risk. The challenge for government now is how it places sufficient emphasis on prevention and preparedness, making informed decisions about prioritisation to ensure efficient and effective investment in the long-term.

Recommendations include:

  • Responsible departments should set out clearly defined targets for ‘what good looks like’.
  • Government should accelerate its plans to develop a coordinated approach to investment in resilience.
  • Public awareness of the potential impacts of extreme weather should be built.
  • The Cabinet Office should strengthen the leadership, accountability and assurance arrangements of extreme weather risks across government, including considering the merits of a chief risk adviser.

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