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Reverse EA Budget Cuts

Thursday, January 30, 2014

GMB Calls On Government To Reverse Cuts To Environment Agency Budgets As Troops Deploy To Deal With Somerset Floods

Cuts to budgets over the last 5 years have brought about a reduction in maintenance which has impacted on the amount of dredging and drain maintenance carried out on all rivers says GMB.

GMB, the union for staff at the Environment Agency, commented on the deployment of troops to deal with flooding in the Somerset levels.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer for members at the Environment Agency, said “Cuts to maintenance budgets over the last 5 years have brought about a reduction in maintenance to all rivers. This has impacted on the amount of dredging and drain maintenance carried out all across the country.

Environment Agency staff are keen do this work but as the budgets have been reduced so have the maintenance regimes.

GMB has repeatedly said that capital schemes are not the only panacea to flood alleviation. GMB has highlighted before that if revenue budgets are cut this will impact on work that is critical to the whole flood control process. See GMB press release of November 2013 on cuts leading to 1,700 job cuts at the Environment Agency.

GMB has warned that cuts would lead to increased flooding. So it is not right to lay the blame on Environment Agency staff forced to implement government revenue reductions.

Maintenance work is a balance of flood prevention and enhancing the whole ecosystem and the work has to be properly planned. We need a programme that provides a proper balance for drainage that safeguards people, property, farmland and wildlife.

We would like to remind the public that as the law now stands those dealing with drainage would face criminal prosecutions if water vole habitats on the Somerset Levels are disturbed. It is for Parliament to consider if the balance of the law is right to safeguards people, property, farmland and wildlife.

As a first step Parliament must force the government to reverse to cuts in funding at the Environment Agency and to restore all the maintenance budgets."

End

Contact Justin Bowden 07710 631 351 or Frank Minal 07713 079930.  GMB Press Office 07921 289 880

Notes to editors

GMB press release dated 27 November 2013.

GMB WARN 1,700 JOB LOSSES AT ENVIRONMENT AGENCY WILL INCREASE RISK OF FLOODING AND THREATEN GOOD MANAGEMENT OF WATER RESOURCES

10% cut in of Environment Agency jobs will have a detrimental effect on the lives of millions of people in England says GMB

GMB, the union for staff at the Environment Agency (EA), is warning that the projected cut of up to 1,700 jobs will increase the risk of flooding and threaten the good management of water resources in England.

GMB is joining with Prospect, UNISON and Unite to mount a campaign to opposing these short-sighted austerity measures.  GMB will join with others who have already spoken out against these cuts. See notes to editors for some statement by outside bodies.

The unions plan to lobby MP and local councils and seek to inform political parties and the general public on the increased risks to safety, quality of life, and the most of all the threat to the environment. They will seek to raise awareness that the cuts will mean a detriment to the environment and a lead to higher risk of flooding to persons and property.

The unions will show cuts will impact on staff at the forefront of the service, protecting the public by directly maintaining rivers, deploying sandbags, giving flooding warnings, surveying protected species, dealing with pollution incidents and involved with local consenting and planning.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, said “The public need to know that job losses on this scale will impact specifically directly on flood risk management, on flood defence operations teams managing flood defences and carrying out river maintenance to enables flows to be conveyed away, enhancing the river's ecology and supporting fish stocks.

These teams also provide wider incident response containing river pollution, aerating watercourses to prevent fish deaths from low oxygen levels. So cutting flood risk funds will have a detrimental affect the health of all rivers no matter what the interest.

The job losses will detrimentally impact on other function also undertaken by the Agency as follows:-

  • protecting the public from risks associated with radioactive waste
  • regulating polluting industries and preventing environmental crime
  • managing the country's water resources
  • ensuring safe bathing water quality
  • enhancing our rivers to support angling.

Although the recent St Jude’s Day storm did not cause as much disruption as expected as a nation we are vulnerable to storm damage as the floods of 1947, 1987, 2000, 2001, and 2002 clearly shows. They had the effect of major disruption, loss of life, and clean up bills of millions of pounds.  So the proposed 10% cut in of Environment Agency jobs will have a detrimental effect on the lives of millions of people in England”

End

Notes to Editors

Here are some recent statements by other organizations on the EA cuts.

Sam Corp, head of regulation at the Environmental Services Association (ESA) said: “ESA is concerned that the drastic cuts to the EA’s staff numbers could have a significant impact on the environment as well as on the operations of responsible waste management companies.

“ESA’s members rightly expect that the EA will process permit applications and modifications in a timely manner. Staff reductions of this nature could, for example, cause delays in permit applications and modifications which would have a direct financial impact on ESA’s members and potentially hinder investment in the sector.

“We are also concerned that further cuts will impact on the Agency’s efforts to crack down on waste crime. Whilst we recognise the need to make cuts in public spending, these should not be at the expense of the environment and human health.”

Steve Lee, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) chief executive, said: “The Environment Agency fulfils a critical role in safeguarding our environment and our communities and the budget cuts are cause for concern across all areas of the EA’s remit. With evidence to suggest that there is a growing link between waste and organised crime, however, we believe that waste crime must be considered a priority.”

He added: “CIWM and other key industry organisations have already jointly written to the Government to express our strong view that the funding for the Agency’s dedicated task force, which has already done good work, must not be cut. The environmental and economic impact of waste crime is significant and we will continue to push for this area of enforcement to be properly resourced.”

Environmental Data Services magazine reports that Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's director of policy and campaigns, said: "It's a disgrace. We've always been told by this government that cuts will not affect basic environmental protection and this is completely counter to that. This will make it impossible for the Agency to do what it already does. It'll hit its role at the most basic level."

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