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Review call over more cut flood protection staff

PUBLISHED: 11:17 05 January 2014 | UPDATED: 11:18 05 January 2014

Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

Archant © 2012

The government could be “cutting off its nose to spite its face” if it allows hundreds of Environment Agency (EA) staff be cut following severe flooding across Norfolk, Suffolk and the rest of the UK, a Conservative MP has said.

Police place sandbags in the Sailorstown area of Belfast city centre. High tides and strong winds have caused flooding in some coastal areas of Northern Ireland but the tide peaked without major flooding in Belfast. The emergency services had warned of a possible tidal surge hitting the city and police built walls of sandbags in parts of central and east Belfast  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday January 3, 2014. See PA story WEATHER Flood Ulster. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA WirePolice place sandbags in the Sailorstown area of Belfast city centre. High tides and strong winds have caused flooding in some coastal areas of Northern Ireland but the tide peaked without major flooding in Belfast. The emergency services had warned of a possible tidal surge hitting the city and police built walls of sandbags in parts of central and east Belfast PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday January 3, 2014. See PA story WEATHER Flood Ulster. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Lowestoft MP Peter Aldous called for plans to cut the workforce from 11,250 in March to 9,700 by October to be put on hold, and a review to take place, in the wake of the storm surges which have caused millions of pounds of flood damage.

He said his government needed to be sure its decision to cut the budget of the body responsible for flood protection had been made on the right basis.

Labour politicians have called for more resources after EA chief executive Paul Leinster admitted risk maintenance “will be (further) impacted”.

He told environmental policy magazine The ENDS Report that work on mapping, modelling and new developments in flood warning “will also have to be resized”. “And we’re looking at a proportionate reduction in the number of people in flood risk management,” he added.

But Great Yarmouth MP and communities minister Brandon Lewis said the EA was having to make savings like other government departments, and that he had been assured front-line staff would be protected, with £28m going towards flood defences in the town. Environment secretary Owen Paterson also insisted the EA was seeking to protect front-line services.

But Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, said the public needed to know that job losses on the scale planned would directly impact the EA’s flood risk management and flood defence operations teams.

North Norfolk prospective Labour candidate Denise Burke said it “beggared belief” that when prime minister David Cameron was travelling to flood-hit communities saying more needed to be done, the Environment Agency could cut staff. An Environment Agency spokesman said: “We will ensure that we retain the Environment Agency’s incident resilience.”

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