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GMB union: Energy inquiry 'bad for jobs in the UK'

A major competition inquiry into the 'Big Six' energy firms will be "bad for jobs in the UK, bad for investment and it will do nothing for consumers apart from maybe delay the relentless rise in energy bills until after an election", a union has warned.

The warning from GMB comes after SSE announced yesterday it will cut 500 jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme.

This is designed to kick the issue down the road until after the next election.

The country is in the midst of an energy crisis. Energy bills are going to keep going up. Households will struggle to pay their bills and British industry is losing competitiveness.

The market is being propped up by huge subsidies. Electricity wholesale prices across Europe are dropping. Desperately needed investment has been slashed.

– Gary Smith, GMB national secretary for energy

Read: 'Big Six' energy firms to face major competition inquiry

Union claims Environment Agency jobs still set to go

Plans to axe jobs at the Environment Agency will be raised at fresh talks this week despite assurances from the Prime Minister that no jobs would be cut during the current flooding crisis, a trade union claims.

The GMB said a meeting has been arranged for Thursday at which they believe a timetable will be discussed for pressing ahead with up to 1,700 redundancies.

Flooding near Laleham in Surrey.
Flooding near Laleham in Surrey. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Last week the Environment Agency (EA) announced that any job cuts would be put on hold as it dealt with the effects of widespread flooding, a position reinforced by David Cameron as he visited areas affected by the bad weather.

The GMB said it was clear the agency would press on with redundancies after the floods have receded, calling the plan "ludicrous".

PM will 'try and learn lessons' from flooding crisis: Latest updates

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PM will cut short conference appearance to focus on floods

David Cameron will cut short his attendance at an international conference tomorrow to focus on dealing with the flooding.

David Cameron attending an emergency meeting on the weather today. Credit: Neil Hall/PA Wire

The Prime Minister had been due to speak at the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, alongside the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge.

But a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister will briefly dip in to meet with international leaders attending the event but his attendance will be cut short."

The new Cabinet committee on flood recovery will meet tomorrow, replacing a scheduled meeting of the full Cabinet.

Read: EA denies pulling out staff from Wraysbury after 'abuse'

'Never an excuse for abuse' after Wraysbury claims

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said "there is never an excuse for verbal abuse" after reports that Environment Agency staff were criticised by people in Wraysbury.

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.

– A Department for Communities and Local Government spokeswoman

Read: EA denies pulling out staff from Wraysbury after 'abuse'

EA denies pulling out staff from Wraysbury after 'abuse'

The Environment Agency (EA) has denied that it is pulling staff out of flood-hit Wraysbury after reports they suffered abuse from members of the community.

Residents pull a boat through flooding in Wraysbury, Berkshire, yesterday. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Pictures: Before and after - British towns transformed by flooding

David Murphy, an EA flood risk manager, was asked by ITV News' Lewis Vaughan Jones whether the agency was removing staff from the area and he replied: "Not at all, we are here."

When asked about the rumours that staff had been abused by members of the community, Mr Murphy replied: "If that has happened, it was an isolated incident...if it happened."

He added: "We are working with the community and with the emergency services to provide advice and help."

Latest forecast - Appalling, stormy conditions set to hit Britain

Union blames Pickles for 'hostility' suffered by staff

The hostility from residents in flood-hit Wraysbury is a direct result of the irresponsible attack by Eric Pickles and others on the Environment Agency, the GMB union have claimed.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer for the Environment Agency (EA) said:

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.

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.

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.

Ms Bowden said the Government must immediately reverse the "ludicrous cut" of 1,700 EA jobs and review funding to ensure the budget could cope with flooding and drought.

Read: Environment Agency withdraw from village after 'abuse'

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GMB union chief and Miliband to meet tomorrow

GMB union general secretary Paul Kenny and Ed Miliband are due to meet tomorrow in a meeting planned before today's decision to cut funding to Labour by £1 million.

A union source said its was made out of sorrow rather than in anger.

However, according to ITV News political correspondent Carl Dinnen, there are those in the Labour Party who thought it was a deliberate snub ahead of tomorrow's meeting:

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