GMB Welcome Call By Environment Food And Rural Affairs Committee That Spending On Flood Defences Should Not Be Cut
The number of staff available to deal with flooding out of hours is due to fall with a meeting in mid-January 2016 to discuss how many jobs will be cut and where says GMB.
GMB, the union for staff at the Environment Agency, commented on warning from Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that spending on flood defences at the Environment Agency should not be cut. See notes to editors for copy of press release from Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee dated 15th December. See full report Defra performance 2014-2015 as pdf at foot of this release on GMB website www.gmb.org.uk
Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, said "This warning from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is timely.
GMB members at the Environment Agency still do not know what day to day spending on maintenance of flood defences from 2016/17 onwards will be. This is apart from the scrapping of hundreds of flood defences due to cuts in spending.
As things stand the number of staff who will be available to deal with flooding out of hours is due to fall. There will be a meeting in mid-January 2016 to discuss how many jobs will be cut and where.
The recent floods are yet another reminder of the foolhardy stupidity of the government cutting spending on the Environment Agency. It is quite simply penny wise and pound foolish to make any cuts that affects any of the Agency's vital functions, or cuts the jobs of those who carry them out."
Contact: Justin Bowden 07710 631351 or Frank Minal 07713 079930 or GMB press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823
Notes to editors
Copy of press release from Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee dated 15th December.
DEFRA FUNDING CUTS MUST NOT PUT FLOOD PROTECTION WORK AT RISK
NEW REPORT: Defra performance 2014-2015.
The reduction in Defra's budgets over the next four years must not affect vital flood protection work, the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee has warned. The MPs want Defra to produce a plan showing how it will deliver vital services in the face of further cuts, which will reduce administration budgets by over a quarter and overall resource budgets by 15%.
Committee Chair, Neil Parish MP "Defra's budget reduced by around a quarter in the previous Parliament and the department now faces a further 15% cut by 2020. Savings have to be made, but the Department must prioritise front-line work like flood protection. We have asked the Secretary of State for a clear strategy outlining the impact of Spending Review cuts on vital services. We welcome Defra's commitment to a six-year capital flood defence programme and its pledge to protect maintenance funding for activities such as river dredging. This is prudent investment since flood damage may cost more to repair than to prevent. But the increasing risk of more extreme flood events will stretch these budgets thinly.
Funding for flood defences
Defra's funding plan relies on the Government being able to secure £600 million from external contributions - of which only £250 million has so far been secured, with only £61 million from the private sector.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Chair, Neil Parish MP "We are pleased that the Government is committed to a £2.3 billion programme for flood defences over this Parliament. But this relies heavily on investment from the private sector, which has not yet been guaranteed.
The Committee also recommends that Defra renews its focus on rural priorities such as the broadband infrastructure crucial to reducing the productivity gap between urban and rural areas.
Neil Parish MP:
"Businesses everywhere need fast broadband, but a lack of effective internet and mobile phone connectivity is hampering economic growth in some rural parts of the country.
"Defra must champion the needs of rural communities and businesses more vigorously. Any new Universal Service Obligation must deliver affordable connections at sufficient speeds to all areas of the country."
The Committee also raises concerns about complex new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rules which could lead to Defra paying further EU fines known as disallowance penalties.
Neil Parish MP said:
"The Rural Payments Agency and the Secretary of State have reassured us that the majority of CAP payments are to be made by the end of January and we welcome the payment in full of many farmers' claims at the beginning of December. However, we are concerned about problems with IT systems which could delay future payments and lead to inaccurate claims which could cost Defra and farmers dearly if they break strict EU rules.
"Defra has already paid fines of £642 million under CAP schemes. Defra must press the EU for a simplified CAP system under which Defra can avoid further fines and put money where it is needed most - on delivering the best outcomes for farmers and the environment."
Defra performance in 2014–15