POLITICIANS warned yesterday that budget cuts at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs could endanger the country’s efforts to deal with flooding and other extreme weather.
Defra’s budget will be cut from £3bn in 2010-11 to £2.2bn by 2015-16, meaning it faces some of the most stark spending reductions of any government department.
Around 1,700 jobs are set to go at the Environment Agency, one of 28 agencies funded through Defra, it was announced this week. The EA, which is responsible for flood management, water quality and conservation, will lose around a quarter of its total headcount.
“Recent flooding events over the Christmas and New Year period reinforce the committee’s concerns about cuts to the Defra budget and how these will be realised,” said Anne McIntosh, a Conservative MP and chair of the environment, food and rural affairs select committee.
“Ministers must clarify how further budgets cuts of over £300m over the coming two years will impact on the funding provided to these agencies and the ability of the department to respond to emergencies.”
George Eustice, a Defra minister, told the BBC yesterday that the government has pencilled in “record levels of spending on flood defence infrastructure” between 2015 and 2021.
Around 110 flood warnings were in place across the UK last night and the Thames Barrier was raised for the 11th consecutive high tide to protect London.