David Cameron has refused to comment about whether 550 Environment Agency staff would still lose their jobs – despite announcing “money was no object” in the flood relief effort.

Labour leader Ed Miliband repeatedly asked the prime minister whether the government would be reconsidering its plans to axe 550 jobs in the agency later this year.

Speaking during Question Time in the House of Commons on Wednesday (12 February) , Mr Miliband said many of the staff who were set to lose their jobs were “currently helping with the clean-up and putting flood defences in place”.

“My question is a simple one,” added Mr Miliband. “Given yesterday’s promise to ensure we have a resilient future and spend whatever it takes, is he [Mr Cameron] committing now to reversing these redundancies?”

In reply, Mr Cameron did not answer the question directly. Instead, he said the government had announced emergency measures, including a £10m fund for farming businesses and grants of up to £5,000 for individual businesses and homeowners to recover from the floods.

The prime minister also reminded the House that his government was spending £2.4bn on flood defences in this four-year term, compared with £2.2bn under the previous Labour administration.

More on the job cuts: ‘Environment Agency merger means jobs will go’

Earlier this year, the Environment Agency said it was “likely” to reduce staff numbers from about 11,250 at the end of March to about 9,700 by this October. It is understood that 550 of these jobs will go from its floods team.

The GMB trade union, which represents members working in government, called on the government to reverse the “ludicrous cut” of jobs at the Environment Agency.

Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster said removing 550 staff from his floods team would affect the organisation’s ability to deal with flooding.

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