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East Anglia flooding fears as Environment Agency staff face job cuts

Scenes of devastation after the flood surge at Hemsby.
Homes in The Marrams which have fallen down the cliff onto the beach below.

Picture: James Bass

Scenes of devastation after the flood surge at Hemsby. Homes in The Marrams which have fallen down the cliff onto the beach below. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2013

Calls have been made to put an immediate stop to the job threat to Environment Agency staff involved in the East Coast floods.

Union bosses are writing to new environment secretary Elizabeth Truss to halt plans to axe 350 jobs at the agency charged with protecting us from future flooding.

Staff in the East face an uncertain future after a consultation was launched to give the agency an overhaul and reduce the workforce to 10,250 by October. Jason Bowden, from the GMB Union, called for Ms Truss to march to Downing Street to call for the Treasury to restore agency funding to an “adequate level”.

The agency says that it is putting in an “affordable structure” which will not affect its ability to respond to incidents, including flooding.

But union bosses said the job cuts would have an impact as there were very few “back room staff” who were not involved in flood protection, maintenance and the immediate response to floods. Mr Bowden said: “They may not be in the so-called front line of defence, but the agency isn’t packed full of people counting rare crested newts. There are some, but most people are out there in a flood or drought-related function.”

The Environment Agency has refused to provide details of which jobs are not part of the consultation which started on June 30 and lasts for three weeks. Regional teams have been axed, so all staff will either report to an area or national team.

In a statement, the Environment Agency said: “The additional £140m for Flood and Coastal Risk Management given to us in the Budget means we have not reduced the number of flood frontline posts.

“Like all other public sector organisations, we are facing a future with reduced funding and, while reductions will not be as high as previously thought, by October 2014, it is likely our job numbers will be around 10,250.

“Going into the new financial year our staff numbers were around 10,600.

“We are consulting with staff on proposed changes to our organisational structure. It is our aim to minimise compulsory redundancies and we have sought to do this through a voluntary early release scheme and, where appropriate, not backfilling posts when someone leaves.”

Are you concerned about job losses at the Environment Agency? Email annabelle.dickson@archant.co.uk

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