UK

Job Cuts At Environment Agency Still Expected To Go Ahead

17/02/2014 19:18 GMT | Updated 17/02/2014 19:59 GMT

Controversial plans to axe jobs at the Environment Agency are to be raised at fresh talks this week despite assurances from the prime minister that no jobs would be cut during the current flooding crisis, according to unions.

The GMB said a meeting has been arranged for Thursday at which they believe a timetable will be discussed for pressing ahead with up to 1,700 redundancies.

environment agency

The GMB union questioned whether the government had 'learned nothing' from the floods

Last week the Environment Agency (EA) announced that any job cuts would be put on hold as it dealt with the effects of widespread flooding, a position reinforced by David Cameron as he visited areas affected by the bad weather.

The GMB said it was clear the agency would press on with redundancies after the floods have receded.

A spokesman said: "The meeting will discuss how the delay impacts on the timetable for job losses. This is ludicrous. Has the government learned nothing from the current floods?

"At the root of the current flooding crisis are successive years of central government cuts that have trimmed maintenance budgets to unsustainable levels.

"Government must immediately reverse the cut of 1,700 EA jobs. This should be followed by an independent inquiry into what are the realistic funding levels necessary to ensure the EA has both the capital budget to protect the country from flooding and drought and a big enough revenue budget to maintain, service and run these vital defences."

The development came as it emerged that the prime minister will aim to visit every flood-hit area around the country "to try and learn lessons".

Mr Cameron defended the government's handling of the crisis and hit back at criticism that he was visiting places such as Upton-upon-Severn in Worcestershire, where the Army was deployed after the town was cut in two by floodwaters, only after the damage had already been done.

He described the floods as a "tragedy" while unveiling £10 million of support for flood-hit businesses to help them keep trading.

Mr Cameron said it was not fair to suggest the government was on the back foot over its handling of unprecedented national flooding, adding that the Cobra emergency committee had been meeting since water levels started rising before Christmas.

"I don't really think that's fair at all," he said of criticism.

"When the bad weather and flooding started before Christmas in Norfolk, we had Cobra - the emergency committee - meet then.

"Then it met again after Christmas to talk about the problems in Kent and Somerset.

"I visited Norfolk and I've been up in Blackpool, here now in the West Midlands, and in the West Country.

"I'll try to get to every part of the country that's been affected so that we can learn all the lessons.

"But here in Worcestershire we can recognise that the flood investment that went in after 2007 has made a real difference, with hundreds of properties protected."

He added that government spending on flood defences had been increased to £2.4 billion in the current four-year period - an rise of £200m over the previous spending period under the Labour government.