Environment Agency to Slash 1,500 Front-line Staff IBTimes UK

The Environment Agency is to slash around 1,500 jobs in flood protection services in England as the country prepares to be battered by a huge storm.

The loss of hundreds of front-line staff could mean the country's ability to deal with floods could be at risk, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The move will see around 15% of the organisation's staff slashed in order to save money by October.

"We're spending over £2.3bn on tackling the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. Together with contributions from other partners, this is more money than ever before," a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said.

"We'll also be making record levels of capital investment and will be spending over £400m by 2020/21.

"In addition, we have provided the Environment Agency with an above-inflation increase of £5m on their floods maintenance work in 2015/16.

"Departments and agencies across government are having to make choices about their budgets and the Environment Agency is making their own choices about how best to use their resources."

The news comes as The Environment Agency has issued 21 severe flood warnings and has told people living along the west and south coasts of England and Wales to expect flooding and to take immediate action to stay safe.

UNISON National Officer for the Environment Agency, Matthew Lay said: "The severe floods over the past year should serve as a warning to the government and the public that making cuts is not only dangerous but potentially catastrophic.

"Staff in the agency have worked day and night to keep communities safe and prevent flood damage, and work tirelessly to support those devastated by the aftermath. The government can't have it both ways, praising the sterling work of members in the agency but at the same time imposing further damaging cuts."

Lay said there was a significant cost associated with managing flooded land, and cutting services to save money in the short term is a false economy, and risk reducing the agency to a crisis management level.

He added: "Environment Agency staff did a brilliant job over Christmas, working long hours and going the extra mile despite being stretched to the limit. Making so many skilled workers redundant will seriously effect the Agency's ability to manage incidents."

At present, there are also 231 flood alerts, warning people to be prepared, and 193 flood warnings, meaning flooding is expected.

The Met Office has also issued severe weather warnings for many parts of the UK, including the west of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the west and south coasts of England and Wales.

The Environment Agency had not returned calls by press time.