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Churchwarden of flooded church voice concern over cuts to emergency response

Big cuts to the government budget that deals with emergencies, including flooding, have been criticised by members of a Dorset church that has been flooded.

MPs say half a billion pounds has been axed from the Department for the Environment since 2010, and it's facing more cuts over the next two years. Climate change scientists warn we can expect more extreme weather like we've been experiencing over the last few weeks, with warnings that budget cuts could hamper Britain's ability to deal with emergencies such as flooding in future. St Mary the Virgin Church in Charminster in Dorset, has been flooded after the River Cerne, which flows under it, burst its banks.

Churchwarden Jane Hour tells Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour they couldn't have coped without the help they received:

The Government has pledged to increase spending on new flood defence schemes to £370m in 2015/2016, with the money ring-fenced. Environment Minister George Eustice insists resources won't suffer in the face of cuts.

He said:

"There's going to be a huge amount of money spent on flood defence spending, although we've had to have cuts like every government department, we've prioritised spending on flood defence."

However, the Environment Agency, a government body funded by Defra and with a key role in dealing with flooding, is to lose more than 1,500 jobs in the next year.

The Chairman of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee Anne McIntosh said:

"What we're saying is that if there are going to be limits to the services that can be provided by DEFRA or the Environment Agency; then we need to look at more imaginative ways of providing flood defences and flood protection."

The budget warning comes as the country faces another day of stormy weather and remains at risk of more flooding as heavy rain, combined with hail and thunder as tidal surges continue to batter the southern and south-eastern coast. A succession of storms means the rain is falling on already heavily saturated ground and swollen rivers, giving rise to difficult road conditions for motorists and causing delays and cancellations to train services. Flooding in the Somerset Levels has left villages cut off, roads and buildings have been damaged, and waves of up to 27ft have been recorded at Land's End, the most southern tip of the UK. Last night a flood siren warning of extreme danger to people and property was sounded in Dorset. Churchwarden Jane House describes the damage caused to the place of worship during Premier's News Hour. 

Britain remains at risk of more flooding as rain and tidal surges continue. Around 130 flood warnings are in place.

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