A swathe of job cuts this year will not affect the Environment Agency’s ability to cope with major floods, officials claimed this week.
Hundreds of Agency engineers worked around the clock over Christmas and New Year to tackled a series of flood events. Many went without leave as the organisation manned and repaired flood defences.
Agency flood risk manager Paul Mustow said plans to cope with severe weather had been implemented well.
He added that this ability to respond to flooding would be protected despite government funding cuts. Agency employee numbers are due to fall by more than 10% to 9,700 by October, as revealed in NCE last month.
“We are not immune to budget pressures and we are focusing on making sure our incident response remains resilient and the work we do improves the environment,” said Mustow. “In all the changes our focus will be on those outcomes.
“We aim to react as well to future flood events as we have done this time.”
Preparation pays off
Mustow said work carried out by the government over the past seven years had paid off in the way it and other agencies had been able to react to the severe weather in the last month.
More than 1,400 properties were flooded across the UK in mid-December when a tidal surge pushed sea levels higher in some places than during the floods of 1953. Storms and river bursts occurred throughout the Christmas period, before fresh floods in the South West in early January.
“Our set-up is pretty robust, which is due to work [done] since 2007,” said Mustow. “The government has put a lot of work into preparing for major floods.
“Until December 2013, we had not had a major East Coast surge for many years, so we were pleased to come through that test. The key thing was planning over the past few years along with the local authorities so they had plans they could take off the shelf when it happened.
“These plans worked really effectively, from forecasting to evacuation. The feedback has been pretty good. But we are not complacent.”
The Agency estimates that while 180 properties flooded in early January, more than 180,000 were protected by flood defences.