© SWNSLord Smith visiting flooded areas of Somerset today
Environment agency head Lord Smith was branded a "little git" today by a Tory MP as he visited flood-stricken Somerset Levels - but has vowed not to step down.

Lord Smith was given a hostile reception as he made his first trip to the area since it was hit by floodwaters.

One victim of the floods said he was "bloody mad" that Lord Smith had refused to apologise for the Environment Agency's decision not to dredge the rivers on the Levels - an action which it has been agued may have reduced flooding.

Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who represents Bridgwater and West Somerset, branded Lord Smith a "coward" for not notifying him of his visit.

He said: "I will tell him what I bloody well think of him - he should go, he should walk.

"I'm livid. This little git has never even been on the telephone to me.

"When I find out where he is, I will give it to him.

"He has not told the local MPs, the local council or the local press where he is going to be.

"He's a coward."

Lord Smith's visit - a week after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was heckled by local residents - comes as Royal Marines were helping evacuate some 140 properties in the village of Moorland.

Prime Minister David Cameron has yet to visit Somerset, but said today he would go "when the time is right".

Speaking from the flood-affected village of Stoke St Gregory, Lord Smith would not be drawn into apologising to residents who have been evacuated from their homes, but insisted that the top priority for authorities was "protecting lives", followed by protecting homes and businesses.

The under-fire peer said: "I have no intention of resigning because I'm very proud of the work the Environment Agency and its staff have been doing right round the country in the face of the most extreme weather."

The Environment Agency chairman, who said he could "absolutely understand" residents' frustration, said he would be visiting other parts of the Somerset Levels to see the impact of the flooding.

© APEXLord Smoth faced a media scrum when he arrived in Somerset
Jim Winkworth, a farmer and landlord of the King Alfred pub in the tiny village of Burrow Bridge, met with Lord Smith today, and after the meeting was asked how he felt about the peer's refusal to apologise.

He said: "Bloody mad. We thought that's the least he could do today and he's not apologising or admitting any liability.

"He hasn't come down here to apologise, which is what he should be here for."

Mr Winkworth said Lord Smith had explained to him why the dredging that was promised a year ago had not happened.

"He said the reason the action we were promised 12 months didn't happen was because they set aside £400,000 for dredging, which wasn't enough," he said.

"So they side lined the £400,000 and they were waiting for other agencies to give them more money to get started.

"So my question was 'why didn't they use the £400,000 to make a start?'

"He said it wouldn't work and there was no point starting a job and not finishing it, which I quite honestly think that's what they did 20 years ago when they took over from the National Rivers Authority."
Moorland in Somerst flood
© SWNSAriel view of Moorland in Somerset
Local councillor Julian Taylor, who was evacuated on Wednesday and has moved into a holiday cottage, said earlier: "I think it's all very well for politicians in Westminster to send condolences and say that they're going to do things, but the issue is now that we're reaping failure of something like about 50 years of bad maintenance and short-term policies.

"And it's individual suffering of people having to cope... I've seen farming friends pushed to the brink of disaster on their farms."

He said families were being uprooted from houses they had lived in for generations, and if the area had received a "proper response from the Government last year" they would not be in this position.

Royal Marines helped people evacuate their homes on the Somerset Levels today as the chairman of the Environment Agency prepared to visit the area for the first time since it was hit by floods.

Units from Royal Navy 40 Commando Royal Marines worked through the night to boost flood defences, and evacuate some 140 properties in the village of Moorland.

The Ministry of Defence said marines from 40 Commando moved into the village of Athelney last night to put down sandbags and improve flood defences, and have now moved to Moorland where they are using two Pinzgauer vehicles to help evacuate 140 properties.