December 17 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Sunday, January 5, 2014
The government could be “cutting off its nose to spite its face” if it allows hundreds of Environment Agency (EA) staff be cut following severe flooding across Norfolk, Suffolk and the rest of the UK, a Conservative MP has said.
Lowestoft MP Peter Aldous called for plans to cut the workforce from 11,250 in March to 9,700 by October to be put on hold, and a review to take place, in the wake of the storm surges which have caused millions of pounds of flood damage.
He said his government needed to be sure its decision to cut the budget of the body responsible for flood protection had been made on the right basis.
Labour politicians have called for more resources after EA chief executive Paul Leinster admitted risk maintenance “will be (further) impacted”.
He told environmental policy magazine The ENDS Report that work on mapping, modelling and new developments in flood warning “will also have to be resized”. “And we’re looking at a proportionate reduction in the number of people in flood risk management,” he added.
But Great Yarmouth MP and communities minister Brandon Lewis said the EA was having to make savings like other government departments, and that he had been assured front-line staff would be protected, with £28m going towards flood defences in the town. Environment secretary Owen Paterson also insisted the EA was seeking to protect front-line services.
But Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, said the public needed to know that job losses on the scale planned would directly impact the EA’s flood risk management and flood defence operations teams.
North Norfolk prospective Labour candidate Denise Burke said it “beggared belief” that when prime minister David Cameron was travelling to flood-hit communities saying more needed to be done, the Environment Agency could cut staff. An Environment Agency spokesman said: “We will ensure that we retain the Environment Agency’s incident resilience.”