floodMinisters have raised fears that cuts to the government's environment department budget will hamper its future ability to cope with a repeat of the major flooding which has affected the UK in recent weeks.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said resources will be "shifted to respond to changing needs", but MPs are calling on him to clarify which policy areas face the biggest cuts.

While a review of coastal flood defences and the impact of recent storms has been ordered by the Welsh government, the English Environment Agency has announced 1,500 job cuts this year with reports suggesting that 500 of those could be from the agency's flood prevention and protection team.

Leslie Manasseh from union Prospect has called on the government to reconsider such a move and added: "They [the government] need to learn the lessons of the experiences of this winter, which have had such a devastating impact on so many people."

However, Mr Paterson has pledged to maintain frontline services and invest £370m in new flood defences after the windiest December in the UK since 1969 and the wettest since 1993 according to the Met Office.

Serious flood warnings
This has led to serious flood warnings across many areas of the country, with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service among those warning people not to gamble with their lives if they choose to drive through floodwater.

Phil Martin of the DSFRS said: "Your car can float in as little as 30cm of water and it takes much less than that to knock someone off their feet.

"People must ask themselves, is it worth gambling with your car and maybe even your life to take the shortest route home rather than take a detour on a safer journey. Floodwater can cause significant and expensive damage to your car but it can also cost the lives of you and the people with you."

Far greater impact than fires
In areas where the flooding is currently under control, pending further bad weather, investigations have begun into how to improve resilience schemes.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has helped form the Essex Flood and Water Management Alliance with chief fire officer David Johnson saying that "flooding has a far greater impact on communities than the fires or road collisions that the fire service has a statutory duty to respond to".

"A flooding incident will affect a lot more people than if you have a single house fire," he added. "People don't tend to prepare for flooding, 80% of households have a smoke detector but people on the whole do not have a flood risk plan in place.

"We already investigate fires and road accidents so it makes sense that we investigate flooding, establish the cause and drive down incidents of flooding. On an awful lot of occasions flooding is caused simply because a culvert is blocked or something is blocking the drainage system. If we can help communities to establish those causes and then do something to rectify them then it will prevent future flooding."