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Reverse 1,700 Flood Job Cuts

Monday, February 3, 2014

1700 Job Cuts At Environment Agency Are Utter Madness And Chris Smith Should Say So And Call For Their Reversal Says GMB

EA workers have been at breaking point trying to cope with flooding all over the country so how are they supposed to cope with the loss of another 1,700 jobs says GMB.

GMB, the union for workers at Environment Agency (EA), commented on a statement in national press by EA chairman Lord Smith that “difficult choices" would have to be made over what to protect because "there is no bottomless purse" to pay for defences. See notes to editors for story on Press Association.

Justin Bowden, GMB national officer, said "Of course the Environment Agency does not have a bottomless pit of cash but it does have a budget which the government wants to slash this year by 10%. 

EA workers have been at breaking point since Christmas trying to cope with flooding all over the country. How on earth are they supposed to cope with the loss of another 1,700 jobs?

It is utter madness to proceed with these cuts and Chris Smith should say so and call for their reversal. As Chairman of the Agency he should be battling to defend the Agency's budget and pointing out the stupidity of these penny wise and pound foolish cuts.

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 Note 2  GMB press release of November 2013 on cuts leading to 1,700 job cuts at the Environment Agency."


Contact: Justin Bowden 07710 631 351 or Frank Minal 07713 079930 or GMB press office 07974 251 823 or 07921 289880.

Notes to editors

Note 1 - Story on PA 3rd Feb 2014


Britain may have to choose whether it wants to save "town or country" from future flooding because it is too costly to defend both, the chairman of the Environment Agency said.

Lord Smith said "difficult choices" would have to be made over what to protect because "there is no bottomless purse" to pay for defences.

His warning comes as it emerged victims of the flooding are having to pay up to 41p a minute to call a government helpline for advice.

Note 2 - GMB press release dated 27 November 2013.


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.”


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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