Outrage as bosses at Environment Agency get £1.5m bonuses during flood misery

Flood defence chiefs who failed to prevent disaster this week for thousands of residents have landed £1.5million in bonuses in five years.

Their payout is more than three times the total offered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help those who have had to abandon their homes.

Last year alone almost a quarter of a million pounds was shared out between 27 Environment Agency executives in “performance related” payouts.

As troops were sent in to help deploy thousands of sandbags in Yorkshire, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said: “Bosses are being rewarded for failure.”

And Labour’s shadow environment spokeswoman Sue Hayman added: “Frontline staff who have worked so hard to respond to the floods face job losses and real-terms pay cuts – while an excessive bonus culture flourishes at the top. It’s scandalous.”

News of the payouts is likely to stoke public anger over the muted official response to the devastation in South Yorkshire and the Midlands after the failure to protect homes and businesses.

Dozens of communities across Britain were facing devastation, with nearly 80 flood warnings still in place yesterday.

Mr Johnson was attacked for refusing to declare a national emergency. In Tewkesbury, Gloucs, residents were on alert for the second time in three weeks as both the River Severn and River Avon burst their banks.

And as rising waters threatened properties along the Thames in Berkshire, Ocean’s Eleven star George Clooney was among those affected – with flood waters sweeping across the garden of his £10million mansion at Sonning.

Unions say job cuts and government-enforced pay caps have caused a collapse in staff morale at the Environment Agency, where the workforce has shrunk from 13,000 to 10,000 since 2013.

The GMB union says many staff earn less than £25,000 a year, while starting pay for some jobs is only just above the National Living Wage of £8.21 an hour. 

Meanwhile, agency chair Emma Howard Boyd, 55, gets £100,000 for a three-day week and chief executive Sir James Bevan, 60, is paid £215,000. 

Yet the Government, which yesterday praised the “commitment and professionalism” of frontline staff, has allowed workers only a below-inflation rise of one per cent, plus a further one per cent scraped from savings such as job losses. 

GMB national officer Kevin ­Brandstatter said: “Ten years of pay restraint has caused a collapse of morale and led to hardship and poverty.”

The bonuses follow claims the agency was slow to react in the worst-hit areas.

Locals in the submerged village of Fishlake, near Doncaster, said they were told there was no need to buy sandbags – hours before they were evacuated. Some could be kept away from their homes for up to three weeks.

The Prime Minister sent 200 troops to South Yorkshire and announced grants to councils of £500 per household, and up to £2,500 for businesses.

But he was confronted by residents frustrated at the slow official response. 

Labour said national spending on flood defences is down 10 per cent since 2015 to £808million a year.

The Environment Agency said 14,400 homes had been protected – 5,000 in South Yorkshire. It said performance awards met civil service guidelines.

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