Worcestershire floods guru Mary Dhonau angry at Environment Agency job cuts

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A FLOOD guru has hit out at Environment Agency job cuts which she says will hamper the fight against the "biggest peril" facing our country and make it harder to maintain Worcestershire's existing defences.

It may be tempting to think the people of Worcestershire secured their flood defences just in time as the Environment Agency reveals dramatic cutbacks with more than 1,500 people to lose their jobs by October. But community flood consultant Mary Dhonau of Worcester says these cuts will not only jeopardise the creation of new defences but could affect the maintenance of existing ones like those in Worcester, Kempsey, Upton, Uckinghall, Pershore and Powick.

Upton benefited from a £4.4 million scheme which includes a glass-topped wall on Waterside and an earth embankment, flood wall and flood gate to protect New Street. Worcester got a £650,000 flood alleviation scheme which opened in June 2009, consisting of a 560-metre man-made barrier.

The £1.7 million Kempsey flood defences proved their worth this Christmas and New Year, protecting homes from the Hatfield Brook. But Mrs Dhonau says it was only because ongoing work was carried out by the "amazing" EA staff that homes were protected. A sensor failed in Kempsey in November 2012, preventing the pumps from kicking in, which meant people were flooded, necessitating extra work by the EA. She said the Kempsey defence was a good example of the importance of ongoing maintenance of existing defences.

The EA budget from government for 2014/15 was confirmed before Christmas. A spokesperson said: "We are now focusing on how available resources will be applied across the Agency’s work areas, including managing flood risk and incidents. However, we are likely to reduce staff numbers from the previous forecast of around 11,250 at the end of March 2014 to around 9,700 by October 2014. We will then aim to keep numbers broadly at that level through to March 2015 dependent of course on future funding."

Mrs Dhonau's call for more funding, not cuts, comes following a backlash against the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson over flooding of the Somerset levels. In January alone the EA protected 240,000 properties from flooding while 240 homes in Worcester have been protected since the floods of 2007.

Mrs Dhonau said: "Some of these cuts will affect maintenance which inhibits the ability of the EA to do things like dredging rivers. There are to be a huge number of staff cuts, 580 in flood risk management. Flooding hasn't stopped since the beginning of December. It is the biggest natural threat, the biggest natural peril, this country faces. We are building more and more defences but the budget for maintenance is being reduced. Unless we can maintain the flood defences they are building, what is the point of them?" She said the EA had done amazing work but had been incredibly stretched since the beginning of December and had "Christmas cancelled" for a second year running as they tackled flooding. She said the EA had done sterling work but, from speaking to workers, she understood morale was low. She said for every £1 spent on flood risk management it saved £8 which was "money well spent".

An EA spokesman said: "There will never be enough money to completely eradicate the risk of flooding. Our priority is to do as much as we can with every pound of funding, and we are in the fortunate position that the new partnership funding approach is bringing in new money for flood defences that would have not otherwise been built."

Partnership funding has secured an extra £148 million of external funding on top of the £2.17 billion the Government in investing in flood prevention through to 2015.

She said: "We now expect to exceed our goal to better protect 145,000 homes from flooding and coastal erosion by 2015."

Comments (4)

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9:35am Wed 29 Jan 14

Redhillman says...

Flooding from rivers, streams etc is certainly a major issue that requires tackling and funding and job cuts at the EA will not be conducive to tackling floods and will put properties, livelihoods and lives at further risk.

However, although not quite as severe as flooding caused by overflowing rivers, many ditches and roadside drains always seem blocked. If the highways people could be bothered to clear these, then some localised flooding and standing water would clear, making many roads safer and passable.
Flooding from rivers, streams etc is certainly a major issue that requires tackling and funding and job cuts at the EA will not be conducive to tackling floods and will put properties, livelihoods and lives at further risk. However, although not quite as severe as flooding caused by overflowing rivers, many ditches and roadside drains always seem blocked. If the highways people could be bothered to clear these, then some localised flooding and standing water would clear, making many roads safer and passable. Redhillman
  • Score: 2

9:56am Wed 29 Jan 14

Moltaire says...

Redhillman wrote:
Flooding from rivers, streams etc is certainly a major issue that requires tackling and funding and job cuts at the EA will not be conducive to tackling floods and will put properties, livelihoods and lives at further risk.

However, although not quite as severe as flooding caused by overflowing rivers, many ditches and roadside drains always seem blocked. If the highways people could be bothered to clear these, then some localised flooding and standing water would clear, making many roads safer and passable.
If the highways department can't even sort out the persistent flooding problems at the large roundabout outside County Hall, i.e. on their doorstep!!, what chance do we have of them sorting out the ditches and drains elsewhere in Worcestershire!!

It amazes me that they have never sorted the problems at this roundabout. It's a high speed road with lots of traffic. It's an accident waiting to happen.
[quote][p][bold]Redhillman[/bold] wrote: Flooding from rivers, streams etc is certainly a major issue that requires tackling and funding and job cuts at the EA will not be conducive to tackling floods and will put properties, livelihoods and lives at further risk. However, although not quite as severe as flooding caused by overflowing rivers, many ditches and roadside drains always seem blocked. If the highways people could be bothered to clear these, then some localised flooding and standing water would clear, making many roads safer and passable.[/p][/quote]If the highways department can't even sort out the persistent flooding problems at the large roundabout outside County Hall, i.e. on their doorstep!!, what chance do we have of them sorting out the ditches and drains elsewhere in Worcestershire!! It amazes me that they have never sorted the problems at this roundabout. It's a high speed road with lots of traffic. It's an accident waiting to happen. Moltaire
  • Score: 0

10:56am Wed 29 Jan 14

Arthur Blenkinsop says...

Until the building of houses on flood plains stops, the concreting over of gardens, the building of new roads over flood plains stops, flooding will increase, as flood plains, strangely, soak away flood water - that is what they are there for. Low-lying areas have always flooded, it is nothing new, if you choose to live near a river that floods, expect to be flooded from time to time. Ditches alongside roads should be cleared regularly, but this, as it happens, is the responsibility of the landowner alongside the ditch who probably don't even know that it is their responsibility. Drains need to be maintained and this apparently is 'low priority' for the council. New roads are also built wit the drains higher than the lowest point!! Why?
Until the building of houses on flood plains stops, the concreting over of gardens, the building of new roads over flood plains stops, flooding will increase, as flood plains, strangely, soak away flood water - that is what they are there for. Low-lying areas have always flooded, it is nothing new, if you choose to live near a river that floods, expect to be flooded from time to time. Ditches alongside roads should be cleared regularly, but this, as it happens, is the responsibility of the landowner alongside the ditch who probably don't even know that it is their responsibility. Drains need to be maintained and this apparently is 'low priority' for the council. New roads are also built wit the drains higher than the lowest point!! Why? Arthur Blenkinsop
  • Score: 1

2:02pm Sat 1 Feb 14

Windy Miller says...

Dredging has very little effect on navigable rivers like the Severn. Flood water has to pass over the weir crests. The Severn is 6ft deep from Worcester to Stourport and 8ft to Gloucester. Severn flood water is 30% silt which fills up any depression. That's why bridges and locks are dredged.
The King Canutes who blame everyone for the Somerset floods should explain their silly comments.
Dredging has very little effect on navigable rivers like the Severn. Flood water has to pass over the weir crests. The Severn is 6ft deep from Worcester to Stourport and 8ft to Gloucester. Severn flood water is 30% silt which fills up any depression. That's why bridges and locks are dredged. The King Canutes who blame everyone for the Somerset floods should explain their silly comments. Windy Miller
  • Score: 0

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