Action is needed on improving flood defences in the Ribble Valley claim councillors who have accused the Environment Agency of ‘sitting on billions of pounds in reserves’.

Councillors also claim the EA is too big to function effectively and its public funding should go instead to councils.

Borough councillor Mark Hindle and county councillor Ged Mirfin say Whalley and Billington need modest flood defences, but claim the organisation has been inactive.

They say four years have passed since major floods in February 2020 and two years since they met agency officers for talks. They want flood defence ideas designed by the Billington and Whalley Flood Action Group to be built.

Cllr Mirfin said EA accounts appear to show it has unallocated reserves of more than £10bn and a general reserve of £836m.

He said: “We have estimated this is enough to fund a 2p cut in income tax.

"It is a national scandal. If the EA is so inefficient in delivering flood defence measures, that money ought to be taken off it and given to other bodies like county and district councils as part of levelling-up funding.

“We cannot think of a better way of promoting economic growth than by awarding contracts for civil engineering projects which will employ hundreds of workers.

“Whalley’s needs are small in comparison to much larger schemes in other parts of the country.

"Around £20m is more than adequate to deliver the safety and assurance Whalley and Billington require, and to reassure the growing number of residents who have approached us.

Cllr Hindle added: “It is deeply frustrating to know purse strings are controlled by the EA and being held tightly closed."

In an update for councillors, the agency said: "In April 2020, the proposed flood risk management scheme for Whalley was paused due to a significant shortfall in funding, stopping the scheme from moving forward.

“In 2023 we allocated a project team to re-assess the viability of a permanent scheme for the village. This has included looking into various options available to us and the current funding sources available.

"(We are) completing this review in the next month, with an aim to discuss the findings and the expected way forward with both councillors and the Whalley and Billington Flood Action Group by June 2024.”

Regarding Billington, the statement read: “A feasibility study has confirmed a stand-alone flood defence scheme to protect Billington would be a viable solution and the agency intends to explore this further.

"The approximate cost for the scheme is £3m and this will rely on the agency obtaining additional contributions from public and/or private funding streams.

"The initial feasibility study has suggested a linear defence structure, roughly following the line of the existing boundary wall to Harrisons Engineering, will be the most suitable solution. This will be developed further through a detailed design phase.

“The defence will not provide flood protection to Harrisons Engineering who have been accepting of this fact. We continue to liaise with them on future impacts and existing planning applications within the vicinity.”

Councillors said they expect to hold a public meeting soon.