UK floods: Environment Agency staff 'were withdrawn from Wraysbury following abuse from locals' as homeowners take matters into their own hands

The GMB union said agency staff had been 'bearing the brunt' of 'hostility' following ministers' criticism

As the flooding crisis across the south was the subject of braying argument and counterargument in the House of Commons today, a union has revealed that the Environment Agency was forced to withdraw its staff from one of the worst-affected villages because of “abuse” from locals.

It was reported that the incident took place on Monday in Wraysbury, Berkshire, which has been subjected to a number of visits from politicians in recent days, and the GMB union said it should be blamed on “irresponsible” comments made by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Though David Cameron last night hailed the “brilliant job” being done on the ground by agency officials, GMB national officer Justin Bowden said they were “bearing the brunt” after repeated criticisms from ministers.

He said: “This report of hostility from the residents on the Thames is a direct result of the irresponsible attack by Eric Pickles (Communities Secretary) and others on the EA.

“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.

“For more than seven weeks since Christmas the Environment Agency's staff have been run ragged helping and supporting the victims of flooding. GMB members have been working double and triple shifts around the clock to protect and assist.”

The GMB said the Prime Minister had repeatedly refused to say whether he would halt planned redundancies at the agency, grants to which have been “cut in real terms by more than a quarter over the past three years”.

The Environment Agency confirmed that staff had been “temporarily withdrawn” on Monday after “some of our staff faced verbal abuse whilst working in Wraysbury”.

A spokesperson told The Independent: “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.”

Meanwhile, exhausted Wraysbury homeowners today said they had been forced to take matters into their own hands in a desperate bid to save their community from succumbing to flood water.

Residents in the Surrey town of Egham say they are exasperated that their pleas for help from the local authorities appear to be falling on deaf ears.

Members of the military were brought in this morning to dispatch sandbags to some of the areas considered most prone to flooding, while police boats from Sussex were also primed to evacuate the most vulnerable.

The assistance came too late for those in the Pooley Green residential area of the town, where flood water - filthy with faeces from the sewers - lapped around the thighs of some homeowners.

Resident Mark Franks said: “We've got the military now, which is great, but we have not seen a soul here from the authorities.

“I've spoken to the council and the water companies but they have done nothing.

“We said we needed help and raised the alarm at an early stage, but we've seen more journalists here than council, Environment Agency and water staff.”

Elsewhere, residents took the initiative, with two men digging an eight-foot trench into the sodden soil in an attempt to drain stagnant water at the mouth of an estate into a vacant gully.

Read more: Britain's water torture is here to stay until May
Surrey gets first reports of thieves stealing sandbags
Residents in Berkshire say military response is 24 hours too late
Counting the cost of the destruction from the wettest winter in a hundred years
Professor Nigel Arnell: Climate change means we will have to get used to flooding

One of the voluntary workers, who gave his name as Craig, said: “There are 30 houses under one foot of water and it is getting worse.

“There are a lot of elderly people living around here so we needed to act now because nobody else is.

“If the residents ourselves don't do something then we risk losing these houses to the water.”

A short distance down the road, people living in sheltered accommodation were evacuated to safety, while others took the decision to leave after Monday's heavy rainfall.

Those stoically remaining in their homes - despite police advice to leave - paid for private pumping crews to shift the water from their street. But one of the two pumps broke and the operation lost impact.

One of those affected, mother-of-three Suhair Al-Fouadi, said she woke up at 7am today to find her home under a foot of water.

“I just shouted 'Oh my god' and got my children up,” she said.

“I tried to prepare for this, I bought £100 of sand and I called the council.

“But they would do nothing. Now I have water from the sewer coming in through my doors.

Those in the worst-hit part of the town praised the military for coming to their aid, providing sandbags and offering assistance to the most vulnerable.

One man, who asked not to be named, said some locals were insistent on “council bashing”, and said the real responsibility lay with the Environment Agency.

He said: “The council staff are doing all they can, we know they are working hard.

“It comes down to the River Thames not being dredged for so long. If the EA did something about it then maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.”

Runnymede councillor David Knight, whose ward is in Egham, praised those who had pitched in to help.

He added: “People are working together, being neighbourly - that's wonderful to see and a great help.

“But we are dealing with something sent from nature.”

Additional reporting by PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?