TAXPAYERS are being asked to bridge a £350,000 funding gap to keep the pumps open at Alt Crossens.
The Environment Agency has suggested it will turn off the pumping stations in the Alt Crossens catchment area unless West Lancs residents can make up the extra funding required.
The council’s spokesman for flooding, Martin Forshaw, is now calling on the Environment Agency’s chairman to visit West Lancashire over fears Somerset-style floods could swamp the borough.
Cllr Forshaw has criticised the EA’s attempts to shirk its responsibilities, and says it needs to get its own house in order.
Cllr Forshaw said: “The Environment Agency is trying to pass the buck on this matter.
“The fact is the borough council has, like the EA, also had its central funding reduced. That means we are having to make some tough decisions as an authority. Asking hard-pressed council taxpayers to foot the bill for an EA function is not the correct course of action.
“The EA’s request was debated at full council in December, and there was cross-party support for the borough council’s stance. This is a matter for the EA, and it is a shame that some are trying to use the borough council as a scapegoat for the EA’s failings.
“There are some similarities between here and Somerset. We both have areas which are drained, on low lying land and dependent on the drainage system which the EA is failing to protect by not dredging the rivers and major watercourses. This puts at risk many farmers’ livelihoods.
“The EA should heed what is happening in Somerset and think again, otherwise there could be similar disastrous scenes in West Lancashire.
“That’s why I’m writing to Lord Smith and asking him to meet with us in West Lancashire so he can see for himself the folly of his own agency’s proposals.”
An Environment Agency Spokesperson said: “Defra priorities on protecting people and residential properties mean that we have to reduce our pumping and land drainage maintenance activities in the low lying, mainly agricultural parts of the Alt Crossens Catchment.
“We have been working with other partners, including West Lancashire Council, with the aim of finding a long term solution for future land drainage in the area. The Environment Agency recognises that local councils are also facing cuts to their budgets and this will have to be taken into account when planning for the future.
“We will continue to work with partners with the aim of finding a practical and affordable way of managing land drainage in the low lying areas of the Alt Crossens catchment.”