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End Threat To Thames Residential Keepers

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

GMB Call On Environment Agency To Lift Threat To Residential Keepers On River Thames And Follow Select Committee Policy Advice On Flood Defences

Government should tell the Environment Agency to stop putting flood defences before cost savings which means retaining residential lock keepers all along the Thames says GMB

GMB, the union for staff at the Environment Agency (EA), commented on the report from Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee that flood protection for communities must take priority over cost-cutting. See notes to editors for copy of press release from Committee dated 17 June 2014.

Justin Bowden, GMB National officer for the Environment Agency said, “The Select Committee's recommendations are quite specific: Environment Agency funding cuts must not lead to a reduction in frontline services.

Yet now that the sun has come out and water levels have fallen that is precisely what the Environment Agency has in mind for the River Thames residential lock and weir keepers.

For years they have wanted to replace residential keepers with mobile keepers and rent out the houses. Currently for residential lock and weir keepers living on the river the response time to localised incidents is around 15 minutes. This would be replaced with a target of 2 hours.

Contrary to what the Select Committee is recommending local managers are doing the opposite. They have now come forward with flawed reports and flawed proposals aimed at doing away with these vital frontline flood defence jobs.

Having selectively cooked the books on the flooding and finance arguments they have now turned their attentions to the vital area of river safety where no doubt they will continue to work backwards from their predetermined outcome.

It is time for government to intervene and tell the Environment Agency to stop putting flood defences before cost savings which means retaining residential lock keepers all along the Thames."

End

Contact Justin Bowden 07710 631351 or Frank Minal 07713 079930  or GMB press office 07974 251 823 or 07921 289880.

Notes to editors

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Select Committee Announcement Tuesday 17 June 2014

FLOOD PROTECTION FOR COMMUNITIES MUST TAKE PRIORITY OVER COST-CUTTING, SAY MPs

The Government must not neglect maintenance of flood defences and watercourses if homes, businesses and farmland are to gain better protection against future flooding risk, warn MPs today in a report of an inquiry triggered by the recent winter floods.

Launching its Report on Winter Floods, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Miss Anne McIntosh said: “We have repeatedly called on the Government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out to minimise flood risk, yet funding for maintenance funding remains at a bare minimum. Ministers must take action now to avoid a repeat of the devastation caused by the winter floods.”

Maintenance and dredging

The Committee calls for fully funded plans to address the current backlog of dredging and watercourse maintenance as well as to maintain the growing numbers of man-made flood defences. "Regular work to dredge and keep rivers clear can be an essential flood prevention measure, yet this is exactly what gets squeezed out when budgets are tight. The Government needs to recognise the importance of regular maintenance work and put it on an equal footing with building new defences" explains Miss Anne McIntosh.

Local knowledge

Miss McIntosh added “local knowledge is key and flood risk management priorities must reflect the local circumstances”.

MPs support the devolution of maintenance activity to internal drainage boards and to local landowners, wherever possible. The Committee also urges the Government to address the confusion over maintenance responsibilities through a widespread education campaign.

Environment Agency funding cuts

The Committee warns that it is essential that Environment Agency funding cuts do not lead to unintended consequences where funding is redirected to one operational area to the detriment of another. The Report also calls for a reassurance from Defra that frontline flood jobs at the Environment Agency will not be cut.

Funding budgets

The Committee identifies the current split between capital and revenue budgets as a major barrier to targeting funding according to local priorities.

"We want clarity for everyone when it comes to flood funding budgets" says Anne McIntosh. "We see no reason why the Government cannot move to a total expenditure approach for flood funding to allow more flexibility to spend in the most effective way".

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Committee Membership is as follows: Miss Anne McIntosh (Chair), Richard Drax, Jim Fitzpatrick, Mrs Mary Glindon, Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck, Iain McKenzie, Sheryll Murray, Neil Parish, Ms Margaret Ritchie, Mr Mark Spencer, Roger Williams

Specific Committee Information: efracom@parliament.uk/ 020 7219 2290/ 020 7219 5774

Media Information: Hannah Pearce pearcehm@parliament.uk/ 020 7219 8430

Twitter: Follow the EFRA Committee on twitter @CommonsEFRA

Committee Website: www.parliament.uk/efracom

Watch committees and parliamentary debates online: www.parliamentlive.tv

Publications / Reports / Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 7023474). Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.

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