UK & World News
EA Staff Pulled From Wraysbury After Abuse
The Environment Agency has removed staff from flood-hit Wraysbury after they suffered abuse from locals, the GMB Union claims.
Justin Bowden, a spokesman for the union which represents EA staff, says Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is partly responsible for the hostility towards workers in the Berkshire village.
"This report of hostility from the residents on the Thames is a direct result of the irresponsible attack by Eric Pickles and others on the EA," he said.
"His incitement has led to the very people on the frontline who are actually helping to alleviate the situation bearing the brunt of people's frustrations."
An Environment Agency spokesman said: "Some of our staff faced verbal abuse whilst working in Wraysbury on Monday.
"For a short while, we temporarily withdrew staff on the advice of the police.
"Our staff were back in Wraysbury yesterday and again today, working alongside members of the community and colleagues from other agencies as part of the continuing effort to deal with this exceptional period of weather and flooding."
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: "The flooding will be extremely stressful for all involved, but there is never an excuse for verbal abuse.
"Ministers have publicly praised the hard work of the on-the-ground Environment Agency staff in challenging times."
Mr Pickles found himself at the centre of a row after he made barbed comments about EA's performance during the crisis and apologised for following their advice.
But the EA hit back at Mr Pickles, labelling his criticism "ill-informed and unfair".
The chairman of the agency, Lord Smith, acknowledged mistakes had been made, but blamed the Treasury's spending rules and a lack of co-operation from councils.
The GMB Union has also highlighted concerns over "ludicrous" planned job cuts at the agency.
"For more than seven weeks since Christmas the Environment Agency's staff have been run ragged helping and supporting the victims of flooding," Mr Bowden said.
"GMB members have been working double and triple shifts around the clock to protect and assist.
"It is noted by these staffs that the Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to say the proposed cut of another 1,700 jobs at the EA will be reversed."
The union has claimed that most of the extra funding announced by the Government in response to the crisis will be spent on capital projects, saving few - if any - of the jobs under threat due to budget cuts.
:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.
:: Sky News has a special programme dedicated to the floods crisis every night this week at 7pm.
:: You can also watch Storm Night Special this Thursday at 8pm on Sky 1 (Sky channel 106).
:: Email your photos and videos of the floods to firstname.lastname@example.org.