Even with homes still underwater in Somerset and large parts of the Thames Valley, Environment Agency (EA) bosses are pushing ahead with job cuts.
Some 1,700 workers at the agency—the main organisation responsible for preventing and responding to flooding—could be laid off after funding cuts.
David Cameron pledged that the cuts would not go ahead until the current crisis was over. But this only refers to the formal consultation with workers.
EA bosses are still assessing the plans, and say they are unsure if promised extra funding will have any effect. They met with officials from the GMB union on Thursday to discuss the sackings.
GMB officer Justin Bowden said, “I still fear that the government has learned nothing from the floods and that the job cuts will go ahead when the floods recede.”
The union’s members protested outside, and a further meeting was scheduled to take place this week.
River levels in southern England are slowly starting to recede, but the EA predicts that some areas will remain underwater until April. And rising groundwater has brought fresh flood risks to other areas from Kent in the south east to Dorset in the south west.
Some people who were evacuated from their homes have now returned, but others could face a wait of up to nine months before they are ready.
Fresh sewage discharges have added to the health risk from flood waters, and storms and receding rivers have even unearthed dangerous unexploded munitions from the Second World War.
The flood crisis is anything but over, and yet the cuts continue.
Unions are right to call attention to the job cuts. Unison, as well as the GMB, has members who work at the EA.
Firefighters in the FBU and coastguards in the PCS have also warned that cuts and closures could threaten their ability to respond to floods.
With widespread fear about floods and anger at the government’s response to them, strikes to stop the cuts could win enthusiastic support.
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