The Environment Agency – £593m on staff and pensions, £20million on culverts and channel improvements.

 

The Environment Agency last year received a £723m grant from the taxpayer and spent in total £1207m, the rest paid for by charges.

The staff costs of the Agency rose by £30m or 8% compared to the previous year, reaching a total of £395.3 million. The Agency employed 12,252 people including  temps and contractor personnel.  Pension contributions cost £56 m , with a loss on the fund recognised that year in the accounts bringing the total pension cost to £197.4 million.  The total cost of pensions was almost as high as the capital works, where they spent £219million during the year.

Within the capital works just £20.3 million was spent on improving or maintaining culverts and channels to ensure free flow of water. That is a mere 1.7% of their total budget, or 3.4% of their staff and pension costs. A further £69.6m was spent on improving embankments.

It looks as if the Agency has got the balance of its budget wrong. It clearly needs to spend more on keeping culverts, ditches and rivers in a good state to be able to handle large quantities of water when we have heavy rains.  The Agency spends a lot on people to warn us of approaching hazards, and to map and discuss the problems as they arise. It needs to do more and spend more of its large budget on works on the ground, probably using contractors not on its own payroll, to keep the water flowing.

It is an interesting to note that under the Coalition this quango has continued to be chaired by a senior Labour person. There does not seem to have been any attempt to remove the Labour Chairman, and he has clearly not made sufficient attempt to get value for money nor to ensure the Agency’s priorities are our priorities – keeping people and property safe from floods, and ensuring a good supply of clean fresh water for households and businesses. There is no evidence here to support Labour Lady Morgan’s claims.

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98 Comments

  1. Arschloch
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    So is Osborne man enough to take on the public sector over their pensions and do as we have seen in those US cities that have declared bankruptcy i.e. cut accruing benefits and pensions being paid? I think not think so as he and all other MPs will only be accused of hypocrisy as their DB scheme is not up for debate.

    Gone are the days when civil service used to operate from dowdy offices too. In the city where I used to live, the EA is in a prime location next to the cathedral and their office is tastefully decorated with lots of Phillipe Starck like furniture and fittings to match So how much are they wasting on rent too?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Rather typical of the pathetic ratio of useful expenditure to waste, overheads and over paid and over officed management of most of government departments I suspect.

      Head offices are so often chosen for the convenience of senior staff’s commuting and good lunches I find. Not only do these organisations do almost nothing of any use they prevent other doing anything useful by over regulation and bureaucracy mainly aimed at generating fee income and creating parasitic jobs for them pushing paper, licencing, supervising etc. What use is a nature site if it is all under a deluge of six feet of water for 3 months of the year. It cannot be that good for the bio diversity.

      It was depressing to hear even Simon Heffer, who usually talks so much sense, agreeing with JR by saying that taxes should be fixed to a level to maximum revenue (perhaps about 37% of GDP). No, no, no they should be at a level that maximises the good to the public and provides enough for the few essential services that the government can provide better than individuals and charities. More like 20% of GDP is plenty. It is a sad poverty of ambition to aim for the former.

      We see from your figures above how much pointless waste and pointless inconvenience of the productive there is everywhere in government. I suspect the MOD, the “in three letters NHS”, education, the BBC, universities, the home office, the foreign office and endless other departments and very similar in ratios of waste to useful activity.

      Staff when not managed well will always do what they like doing rather than what needs to be done. In the state sector no one cares if they are managed well or even tries to so often.

      Also amusing that Jenny Jones who loves paying taxes (and always reminds me of a silly 10 year old) seemed to think 5% of 50,000 was 2,000. Would one really want her to have anything to do with our energy systems? Can see really not think of anything better to do with her money than give it to the state to waste hand over fist, as we see above?

      Sad to hear that Eric Pickles still seems to be on the absurd Prince Charles side of the catastrophic, man made, global warming debate. Real measurements so far are entirely consistent with their being no problem and up to about 2C is more likely to be a net benefit anyway. The rational approach is to do nothing on C02 and use the vast money saved and far cheaper energy to engineer real solutions to real problems. Things like basic medical care (not Price Charles’s homeopathic solutions), levies, dredging, clean water, stronger building in hurricane areas, tsunami warnings, earth quake prove buildings, flood defenses …… as appropriate.

      The state sector seems to have a collective group think, green religion insanity at the moment.

      • Richard1
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        The environment agency is one of a number of public bodies which have taken it upon themselves in recent years to make one of their main functions the propagation of global warming hysteria. Labour’s Lord Smith – one of many Labour politicians appointed to a quango sinecure by the Labour govt – was if I remember a prominent global warming alarmist when he was a minister.

        I find these figures heartening. We know there need to be deep cuts in public expenditure, and wherever we look in detail huge opportunities are presented. Let’s close the environment agency, and channel the funds directly to those who do useful work such as dredging. (I imagine we don’t need Lord Smith for this).

        • lifelogic
          Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          Indeed so much scope for cuts if anyone were ever serious to make them. Most will no loss of service to the public what so ever. Indeed often less inconvenience to them.

        • uanime5
          Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          Let’s close the environment agency, and channel the funds directly to those who do useful work such as dredging.

          You’d need to do something more substantial than dredging these rivers to prevent them flooding.

          Also you seem to have ignored that the environment agency informs people where the most serious flooding is located, something dredgers won’t do.

          • Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

            Ah – but if we only had dredging and better flood defences we wouldn’t need people to advise us of future floods – as there won’t be any.

          • Hope
            Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            You seem to fail to understand that the EA is no use to man or beast on the Somerset levels. Their advice has been useless and their inaction disgraceful. Dredging is one of the points in the 10 point plan. Despite EA believing otherwise silt is not against an EA directive and the building up of banks would help, moreover why was the slice gate kept open and why is no one held to account int he EA? A prime example where the dissolution of the EA would make no difference to the public whatsoever other than a cash saving. The Advertising Standards Agency ought to be scrapped as a ore left wing propaganda unit that serves no useful purpose.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            The only way to stop an area flooding it to stop the water flowing in so quickly or to get it to flowing out more quickly than it is coming in. Dredging is about half of the solution at least.

            Try an experiment with your bath tub if you do not believe me.

            Premium rate phone lines, endless ads on the BBC of warning lines posh head offices do nothing to stop flooding.

      • Bob
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        @lifelogic

        It was depressing to hear even Simon Heffer, who usually talks so much sense, agreeing with JR by saying that taxes should be fixed to a level to maximum revenue

        Depressing indeed Lifelogic. It clearly demonstrates how group-think influences otherwise intelligent people.

        • Richard1
          Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          There are 2 questions to ask when setting tax rates: at what level is tax revenue maximized? and at what level is economic growth maximized? It is quite clear that 52% – or 47% as we have now – is far too high as a marginal rate on both counts.

          • Bob
            Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

            @Richard1

            questions to ask when setting tax rates: at what level is tax revenue maximized?

            Why?

            The focus needs to be on the wasteful spending habits of bloated government not how much they can fleece the taxpayer for.

      • Hooe
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        He is about as useful for he Environment Agency as he is the Advertising Agency as we read on the Archbishop Cranmer website. He has clear bias and failed to address the comments made therein. Both quangos are unfit for purpose and cost us all a fortune. What a pity Cameron did not follow through on his promise to have a bonfire of quangos.

        As for the lady belly aching about political appointments, how does she think she got appointed to the useless House of lords? However Cameron a abused his position fairly well in the honours list for his hairdresser. It is really about time we had root and branch change at Westminster. As for Laws, he would be best served to keep quiet after his (word left out ed) conduct in public office and the sham of an inquiry that followed.

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        I was going to say the figures are astonishing, but I am not astonished at all.

        Only 20% of the total income spent on anything useful and productive.

        Seems about right for a Government body.

        All got huge Pensions though, good salaries as well for many of them.!

      • Bazman
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        What if the 20% was not enough to fund infrastructure, education, house and feed the population to modern standards? Where would you cut to achieve this number you just pulled out of the air. The population are to suffer massive cuts in their standards of living to fund tax cuts for the rich in one of the richest countries in the world? Don’t talk about efficiency this would never reduce the amount to 20 %. You think the population would just accept this for their own good? As if and so they should not.

        • Bob
          Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

          @Baz

          house and feed the population to modern standards?

          I didn’t know that was the government’s job.

          • Bazman
            Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

            In a modern society in one of the richest countries in the world. It is. Poverty is caused politically and do tell us why it should be accepted?

          • APL
            Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

            Bazman: “It is.”

            No it isn’t.

            In the ‘Democratic Peoples Republic of Britian’ that you so long for, perhaps. But check out your role model (North Korea) before you seek to impose it on the rest of us.

      • uanime5
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        Real measurements so far are entirely consistent with their being no problem and up to about 2C is more likely to be a net benefit anyway.

        Care to explain why the IPCC report said the opposite. Could it be because this report is based on evidence, while you claims are based on wishful thinking.

        The rational approach is to do nothing on C02 and use the vast money saved and far cheaper energy to engineer real solutions to real problems.

        The rational thing to do would be to stop raising the average global temperature.

        • Richard1
          Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          You cannot have read the IPCC report. It is quite clear that whilst it thinks there are both costs and benefits to global warming, the benefits outweigh the costs up to 2C. Accordingly, if sceptical scientists are right and the carbon sensitivity of the climate is more like 1C than 3C, there is no justification for green policies.

          • uanime5
            Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

            You cannot have read the IPCC report. It is quite clear that whilst it thinks there are both costs and benefits to global warming, the benefits outweigh the costs up to 2C.

            That’s the opposite of what the IPCC report says. This report makes it clear that there’s no benefit in raising the temperature by 2C and that raising it more than this will cause serious problems.

        • Mark
          Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

          There are essentially two IPCC reports:

          the 31 page one written by politicians, designed to protect them from accusations that they have abused taxpayers with pointless measures;

          and the 2,000 page one written by the scientists that CAGW supporting politicians avoid reading.

          I suggest you check the latter one out before making your claims.

        • Neil Craig
          Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          It could be because the IPCC is a politically appointed body whose “decisions” are rewritten by political apartchiks. It could be that every politician knows this and every politician who is honest admits it and every party & broadcaster which does not say this is run by (unreliable people ed).

          The way to find out would be to use the scientific method. Check if there have been times in the past when climate was warmer than now – even 2 C warmer, and did it cause catastrophe.

          In fact there have been – the medieval and Roman warmings were warmer (natch) and the Climate Optimum (5-9,000 BC) possibly as much as 4 C warmer, a period when the Sahara was lush an have inspired the Garden of Eden legend.

          QED – alarmists wholly (wrong ed)

          • uanime5
            Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

            It could be because the IPCC is a politically appointed body whose “decisions” are rewritten by political apartchiks.

            The IPCC was formed in 1988. Would your mind explaining which country “politically” appointed all these scientists and why they’ve continued to do this?

            Check if there have been times in the past when climate was warmer than now – even 2 C warmer, and did it cause catastrophe.

            Well several mass extinctions did occur after the average global temperature increased in the past.

            In fact there have been – the medieval and Roman warmings were warmer

            What is your source for the temperatures during this period?

            the Climate Optimum (5-9,000 BC) possibly as much as 4 C warmer, a period when the Sahara was lush an have inspired the Garden of Eden legend.

            Again what is your source for the temperature? Also the Sahara was only lush because the monsoon was further north than now, not because it was warmer.

      • REPay
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        The idea of the green movement is to attack market economies – it is where old lefties went when communism failed. They are doing very well at it…much more respectable than the ghastly Marx. A dictatorship of the bien pensant sounding rather preferable to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Their thought police kill debate rather than people.

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Clearly he left it too late to do anything with only 15 month left. What a huge opportunity they wasted when they chucked the last election away with fake green tosh, EU & IHT ratting and their soft socialist, high tax agenda.

    • Timaction
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Another example showing that the ……………Government is not fit for purpose.

      Why didn’t they know these facts that you’ve obtained fairly easily? Why haven’t they done something about it? Who’s actually checking and testing? How many more quango’s are like this? I’d bet the majority. (Wasn’t there something about bonfires?)
      The mind-set is:
      1. To keep the job at all costs, regardless of what is needed to be done. If necessary, employ more people who in turn need more managers. Have meetings, lots of them. Talk a lot. Set actions with a target dates. Qualitative as well as quantity measures as the former can be made to suit.
      2. Look busy, even make up work that needs doing or examining when they’re not. Look at some beauty spots to show how successful they’ve been. If under audit stare at a computer screen with some graphs or tables on pollution or long term studies in some far off Country, being able to quote the dire consequences for not having……………… an “Environment Agency”!.
      3. Who can they blame if something goes wrong i.e. employ an outside agency to actually DO any works!
      4. Have a strategy and associated action plan that looks busy, even if it isn’t or is meaningless. Who would know?
      5. Comply and gold plate any EU directives regardless of the impact e.g. Don’t clear rivers, streams and culverts as it may damage the flora and fauna or impact climate change. If there’s flooding blame the latter!
      I’m told that our Environment Agency is as large as all the rest of Europe put together.
      Our leading politicians will have to make a comment in order to look like………..they’re doing something!

      • bigneil
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        I am going to stop reading your comments – -you are far too sensible and honest.

        Every point you made I could apply to the firm I worked at for 40 years. One man was promoted to a “newly created” position (just for him). He didn’t like the title given – so plagued and plagued the boss to rename the position to include the magic word “manager”. He just wanted the name for his own ego, and got his wish – – – -he was still useless – even with his new title.

  2. stred
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    The farmer who runs the nearbyGlastonbury pop festival told reporters that the Agency took over the running of the Levels and decided it was important to protect the voles and riverbank plants. Then they sold the expensive state of the art dredging equipment for scrap. It appears that a department of green flood engineering has taken hold, where the main aim is to return low lying mother Earth to it’s natural state, ie a salt marsh.This also applies to areas in east Anglia. Tell that to the Dutch.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      This level of flooding cannot be very good for even the water voles can it?

    • alan jutson
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Stred

      “…..Earth to its natural state…..”

      Sounds about right.

      Why not turn all of our farmland over to wild grass and flowers as well.

      Sad fact is these people have seemed to have gained traction and control for their ideas.

      I am all for conservation but only providing it is in balance with todays needs.

      Doubtless like you, I have had to argue the point for clients on many a planning application, when confronted by the listed building zelots.

  3. Old Albion
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    If humans interfere in the natural flow of a river by building dams, locks, wiers etc. Then build homes on the flood plains. Homes will get flooded !!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Well it depends how you “interfere with the natural flows” if you do it intelligently you can improve things hugely.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      After all engineers and scientists interfere with “the natural” using often superb engineering, in all sorts of areas with very great success. Saving millions of lives and making life far more pleasant and convenient for almost everyone.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Building on land reclaimed from the sea (e.g. Somerset Levels and much of Holland) is inherently different from building on flood plains.

  4. Martyn G
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    The EA department responsible for the non-tidal part of the river Thames not long ago tried to sell off lock-keepers houses and discovered that if they did so they would lose control of river levels and stream (flow rate). So they economised by reducing the number of paid summer assistant lock keepers who were normally moved between locks to cover permanent keepers holidays and sickness and recruited unpaid volunteers to make up the numbers to keep the locks open.
    After the 2013 floods, by mid summer boat owners were frequently complaining to lock-keepers that they were going aground in various parts of the Thames. An amusing sight to me last year was the sight of an EA dredger barge stuck fast aground unable to move just below the lock it was trying to enter. Fortunately it was going upstream and it was thus possible to release it by repeatedly flooding and fast-emptying the lock to wash away some of the silt on which it was stuck.
    It seems always to be the case with these quangos that the back office functionaries increase, all needing splendid offices and systems and to make the economies necessary for that the number of front-line people who actually know what they are doing and work at it are cut back as far as possible.

  5. zorro
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I heard saying that the only criteria should be the best person to do the job…… Looking at the distribution of that budget, it is clearly not her. Surely you have to question why these decisions are taken. What is the ruling philosophy? Why get rid of expensive dredging equipment? Why not prepare better for these events? You would guess at incompetence, but surely they cannot be this incompetent or inept? Or is there another reason?

    zorro

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Nearly all of the state sector is run by the staff for the benefit, convenience, job retention and enrichment of the staff isn’t it.

      Perhaps I am too cynical, but then did not some labour woman say “today is a day to bury bad news” or something on the day of 9/11?

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    JR: “It is an interesting to note that under the Coalition this quango has continued to be chaired by a senior Labour person. ”
    Quite, and that just shows how hopeless the situation is. Putting party politicians into these important roles is an example of the grubby nature of our so-called democratic politics. Just how Lord Smith with his double first in English was thought suitable for such a role other than being a Labour politician is a mystery. How about this for a novel idea – if no government can get rid of all these wretched quangos then appoint experienced and appropriately qualified people who have no party affiliation to head them?

    • Mark
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      It is now reported that Lord Smith also had ten other jobs. No wonder he failed to keep his eye on the ball at the Environment Agency.

  7. Mark B
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The figures you quote in your article are truly appalling considering the hardship those in the Private Sector are facing. Many are seeing their pensions reduced and taxation increased solely to fund Government Department largess, whilst at the same time, suffer the ineptitude of these fools.

    I would like to link again to Christopher Booker’s article. It seems that, local problems are better resolved by local people, with Big Brother State, firmly consigned to the margins.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/10610118/Unsung-heroes-gave-Owen-Paterson-his-solution-to-the-Somerset-floods-crisis.html

    I, and many others here, strongly believe in a small, non-obtrusive Government, with as many powers devolved to local authorities as possible, and with strong local democratic oversight.

    And it does not matter whether the person in charge of the Quango is a Labour politician or not. They are charged with looking after the interests of the taxpayer, and for that a lone they should resign. It is also worth remembering which political party, when it was last ‘in power’, as opposed to ‘office’, created such a Quango.

  8. acorn
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    And who created the monster Quango that is the Environment Agency? That would be Westminster MPs. You forgot to blame the EU. Most of what the EA does is mandated by EU Directives, gold plated by Whitehall.

    The EA has far to wide a remit and battles against the diktats of DEFRA and DECC. You haven’t mentioned the Internal Drainage Boards (Land Drainage Act 1991), nobody ever does. There is a lovely bit on the Somerset Drainage Boards site. This, for me, is a classic example of the bureaucratic mess that continually comes out of our Westminster Punch and Judy parliament.

    “FLOODING
    If you have a problem or are seeking assistance on a flooding or drainage issue then there are 5 statutory organisations who may be able to help you. In Somerset the five organisations with flooding and drainage interests are:
    Environment Agency
    Local district council or unitary authority
    Local drainage board
    Wessex Water
    County Council

    Unfortunately, the law and operational activity undertaken by these organisations is quite complex for flooding and drainage issues. If you have heard of the possibility of heavy rain and need to find out if there is a flood warning in force for your area then please visit the Environment Agency’s Website. This will help you identify river catchments that are at risk from flooding and give you advice on what to do if flooding occurs.”

    Remember Cameron’s “bonfire of the quangos”, (oh how we laughed). Anyway, I was in legislation site yesterday and noticed there are now over 71,000 UK Statutory Instruments! I am sure there were only 50,000 when I commented on it on this site a year or so back. What’s going on, we should be told. A fellow number cruncher tells me this government is clocking up all statutory instruments at a rate of 327 a month. Labour averaged 242 a month in its last three years. Surely some mistake!

  9. Gyges
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Just like the NHS … all about the staff, not about the patients.

  10. Bert Young
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I live a stone’s throw from the Thames ( fortunately on high enough ground not to be worried ) in a small village where the culverts and drains have not been kept clear and serviced for many years , so , I agree with your comments on the need to concentrate on the free flow of water . This year has seen up to 2 ft of water across sections of the road due to the roadside drain nor being kept clear ; so far no houses have been affected , but , we have been lucky . Where resources are limited there needs to be a focussing of effort to get the best result – sadly lacking from what I can determine locally . En passant , I thoroughly enjoyed your talk at All Souls on Friday and to disclose my identity .

    Reply Thanks. Good to meet a blogger.

  11. Leslie Singleton
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    We are always having it explained to us that it is “impossible” to hold back the sea: at risk of jumping on the recent Dutch Bandwagon, it cannot be emphasized enough that most of Holland is below sea level but nevertheless they manage very well with dykes, which one hears absolutely nothing about over here–all we hear about is homes (homes, yet, not “just” farmland), indeed whole villages falling in to the sea.

    Step one should be to eat wild birds and quit worrying about where they live or don’t live or wade or don’t wade. In any event, rather that (shooting them out of the sky before they know what’s what) than the cruel horror of the likes of battery hens–do they still put red contact lenses on chickens to stop them fighting each other?).

    Step two is create huge reservoirs nearer the heads of all relevant rivers, perhaps underground–huge soakaways as it were– which cannot fail at least to reduce the problem of flooding downstream–most years it would prevent it altogether and hosepipe bans would become history. We could use an army from those presently unemployed (think of the increase in GDP, right?) to do this and the resultant spoil should be shipped to wherever most needed on the coast and used to fill in behind dykes modelled on Dutch lines. Apart from all else we are not the largest island in the world so taking a bigger stand than we do against the sea has to make sense as does any even small increase in farming land.

    We used, many centuries ago, to know, or certainly do, more than we do now, and all manually. I cannot well remember the details but was there not (in the time of Henry VII maybe) a Lord Guildford who on the South coast somewhere (Portsmouth maybe??) gave his name to the Guildford Level (nowhere near Guildford!!) which best I understand is maintained to this day and is effective.

    100% close down the wretched Environment Agency of course. It is not only intrinsically useless indeed counterproductive but costs and absolute fortune as you have pointed out

  12. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    JR, has it occurred to you that the Environment Agency needs that level of staffing to ensure that it fully complies with various EU edicts and policies which it correctly or incorrectly sees as being not only relevant to its work but legally determining how it should act?

    In theory there should be a Commons inquiry into the causes of the flooding and MPs should insist on teasing out to what extent the policies of the Environment Agency have been legally determined or at least heavily influenced by the EU.

    Bearing in mind that under the EU treaties “environment” is a shared competence and

    “When the Treaties confer on the Union a competence shared with the Member States in a specific area, the Union and the Member States may legislate and adopt legally binding acts in that area. The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence. The Member States shall again exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has decided to cease exercising its competence.”

    and it is in the nature of the beast that the EU will constantly seek to increase the exercise of its competence at the expense of the member states.

    It may be that the flooding is “nothing whatsoever to do with the EU”, but the treaties say that it could be and so it is quite probable that it is.

    But of course even if there was such an inquiry it is unlikely that MPs would initiate let alone press that line of questioning, which could trigger wider questions about why they and their predecessors have alienated so much of their power to the EU.

    • Neil Craig
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      As Dr Galen points out a few posts down, Germany, also in the EU, spends £84m on their agency. Sometimes our politicians use the EU as an alibi for their own parasitism. This, though it leaves the EU innocent in this case, is still a reason to quit. So much of government revolves around spreading responsibility so thin that nobody is held to blame.

      • APL
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        Neil Craig: “So much of government revolves around spreading responsibility so thin that nobody is held to blame.”

        The politicians are in on the con. It serves them to be able to announce that there was for example 1% growth in the economy.

        Regardless, that 50% of the 50% of the economy in the public sector, is sitting around twiddling their thumbs, or worse actively interfering in actual job creation.

        The headline we get is that employment has improved. How that can be when the borders are open and unlimited cheap labour can join us in our island paradise, is a mystery.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know whether or not the EU is “innocent” in this case; even if the Environment Agency is a bloated and inefficient organisation, as it seems to be, it could still be doing the wrong things because of the EU.

        In a ideal world MPs would rigorously probe it and insist on knowingly exactly why it made the wrong decisions that it did, but this is not an ideal world, for a start we are in the EU, and too many MPs see it as their duty to shield the EU from criticism rather than expose its ill effects.

        As the Foreign Office warned back in 1971 in the confidential document FCO 30/1048:

        “After entry there would be a major responsibility on HMG and on all political parties not to exacerbate public concern by attributing unpopular measures or unfavourable economic developments to the remote and unmanageable workings of the Community.”

        So that’s what they’ve been doing, trying to protect the EEC/EC/EU.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      In theory there should be a Commons inquiry into the causes of the flooding and MPs should insist on teasing out to what extent the policies of the Environment Agency have been legally determined or at least heavily influenced by the EU.

      Don’t forget to examine what effect the minister’s denial of climate change had on an agency that had to prepare defences against climate change. I can’t imagine the minister was keen on things to prevent flooding caused by extreme weather if he didn’t believe that global warming was going to cause more extreme weather.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        What “minister’s denial of climate change”?

        Both the government and Parliament have been obsessed with “climate change” for the whole period during which the Environment Agency has existed.

  13. acorn
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The remit of the Environment Agency is far to wide, just read its annual report and accounts to see. It is a product of Westminster and Whitehall, rubber stamped by our Punch and Judy parliament. You forgot to blame the EU today JR, most of what the EA does is mandated by the EU.

    There is a lovely bit that sums up the continual mess of legislation that floods over this land on the Internal Drainage Board site for Somerset (bet you don’t know what one of them is).

    “If you have a problem or are seeking assistance on a flooding or drainage issue then there are 5 statutory organisations who may be able to help you. In Somerset the five organisations with flooding and drainage interests are:
    Environment Agency
    Local district council or unitary authority
    Local drainage board
    Wessex Water
    County Council

    Unfortunately, the law and operational activity undertaken by these organisations is quite complex for flooding and drainage issues. If you have heard of the possibility of heavy rain and need to find out if there is a flood warning in force for your area then please visit the Environment Agency’s Website. This will help you identify river catchments that are at risk from flooding and give you advice on what to do if flooding occurs.”

    Remember Cameron’s “bonfire of the Quangos”, oh how we laughed. Anyway, I was in the legislation site yesterday and noticed there were over 70,000 UK Statutory instruments! I am sure it was only about 50,000 a year or so back; I mentioned it on this site I think. A fellow number cruncher tells me that this government is clocking up about 327 SIs a month. Labour was doing 242 a month in a similar period. Surely some mistake Cast Iron?

  14. behindthefrogs
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    It is very questionable whether the environment agency should “be keeping the water flowing” A lot of the problems experienced recently are a result of ground water rising rather than overspill from rivers. Raising the banks of the rivers simply makes this problem worse rather than solving it.

    Similarly dredging rivers simply moves the problem down stream rather than solving it. It is often better to allow flooding of farms and areas of lower population than move it down stream to the large town.

    Similarly dredging tidal rivers not only allows more water to flow out with the tide, it also increase the amount of water flowing upstream on the incoming tide. Can we really afford to build more tidal barriers like the Thames Barrier on rivers that endanger small populations?

    Finally we need to realise that flood defence is only a small part of the Environment Agency’s responsibilities, most of which involve monitoring air quality, water quality, water abstraction and discharge inland fisheries etc. These involve high quality scientifically qualified staff that demand high salaries.

    Reply The aim is to dredge to move the water more quickly into the sea!

    • behindthefrogs
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I realize that the aim of dredging is to move the water faster to the sea. As I said above this often doesn’t work.

      Take our local river, the Thames, as an example. If it were dredged up stream of Reading, then a lot of Caversham would be under water every time the river was high. The flow of the Thames, and minimising flooding, depends on the skill of the lockkeepers holding the water back and allowing flooding where it does least damage. We need the agency employing these skilled people much more than employing gangs to do un-necessary dredging. After heavy rain the first priority is to allow rivers like the Loddon to drain as rapidly as possible by holding back the water in the main Thames. Dredge the Thames and Wokingham would have much more flooding.
      The skill of people like the lock keepers does much more to prevent major flooding than employing gangs of men to dig the rivers deeper. If it was simply a matter of moving water faster then the Jubilee River (Maidenhead relief river) would have been a straight deep cut instead of the meandering river which aims to lose as much flow as possible to ground water. I am not as aware of the actual issues in the Somerset Levels as I am for the Thames where I have detailed knowledge, but I am sure they are much more complex than is being presented.
      Not long ago we were suffering from water shortages due to the lack of groundwater. Dredging our rivers to create a fast flow to the sea makes this problem worse. You can’t have it both ways.

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        behindthefrogs.

        The point of dredging is surely to increase the depth of the whole river along its entire length and certainly where silt builds up to thus increase the flow in a managable manner.

        Surely you do not start to dredge at the rivers source, but at the point where it flows into another or the sea, then work back to its source, that way you get no excess water build up.

        Excess drainage then is controlled as you say by lock keepers (for the Thames) so the river can run slow, to keep water levels high in time of drought.

        The Thames above Caversham certainly needs dredging, as boats that could safely navigate this area and upstream in years past, are now bottoming out at many points, just upstream from Shillingford bridge as an example.

        How do I know!

        We have travelled the entire length of the Thames from Oxford to the estuary on a number of occassions over many years on a friends boat and certainly the river is silting up.

        The number of fallen trees obstructing the river, especially on the upper reaches is quite alarming.

        • behindthefrogs
          Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          My experience of bottoming in the upper reaches of the Thames is that it usually occurs during periods of drought and resulting low water. In those circumstances many boat owners still try to take the shortest route rather than following the flow of the river which is usually the longest route.

          You advocate dredging the Thames above Caversham. This would cause just the problems that I explained earlier.

          • alan jutson
            Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

            behindthefrogs

            I suggested dredging from down stream upstream the whole length of the river that is giving problems, because the whole length of the Thames is gradually silting up.

            Yes we do follow th river flow, for the very reason you give, indeed so common is it to bottom out in the area I outlined with larger boats, you will find it common knowledge within many marina’s on the Thames.

            Perhaps we have been in a larger boat than you, for info it draws 4 ft 3 inches, and no it has not been in times of drought, but when normal levels operate.
            The owner values his boat so does not attempt such a passage in times of drought.

      • Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        @Behindthefrogs,

        I don’t know enough about flood mitigation to be able to say much except that I’m sure that in some situations it would be best to dredge a river to get water to flow quickly, as John Redwood suggests, and in other cases that would worsen, as you say, rather than ameliorate the situation.

        But I like your reasoned argument. Too many commentators on this blog look at everything through a political prism. They’ll think Environment Agency, Set up by Labour? , Socialist Quango, Overpaid Bureaucrats, Indexed Linked Pensions, Environment = Global warming etc etc

        Then of course it has to follow that everything the EA does is bad!

    • forthurst
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      behindthefrogs – Judging from your idiotic post, you are not a countryman, making his living in the country, nor have you any knowledge of the subject matter on which you pontificate.

      Lord Smith of Harringay, a location deep in the heart of metropolitan England, opined that dredging would have made no significant difference to the recent Somerset flooding. Has Lord Smith ever been into the heart of England, even for a bit of badger-watching, where we English have been adapting the natural environment for centuries to optimise the availability of agricultural land and keep it free as far as is possible from flooding so that now members of the metropolitan elite (useless eaters) can go into their local supermarket and buy the shrink-wrapped food of whose production they neither know nor care? Is it sensible to allow socialist buffoons to set priorities for the environment which are designed to negate centuries of Englishmen’s toil to better their local environments?

  15. DrJohnGalan
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Over at Andrew Montford Bishop Hill blog on 3rd January there was this post:

    “The news this morning is that the Environment Agency is going to cut 1500 jobs in a bid to cut costs. In response, the mainstream media are beating their breasts and wailing about impending disaster. But there are flood warnings in force! Storm warnings! It’s as if the whole metropolitan media elite are leaping to the defence of the public sector workers.

    This news does, however, give me an opportunity to link to Inside the Environment Agency, a blog set up by agency insiders to expose the corruption, inefficiency and graft that goes on inside the agency. It’s an amazing read and I thoroughly recommend it.

    They recently featured a post comparing the agency to its counterparts in other western European countries. I’ve reproduced the critical table here.

    Country, area (km2), population (m), employees, staff per 1000 sq km, budget (m)
    England, 130,395, 53, 11,400, 87, £1200
    Germany, 357,021, 81, 1,400, 4, £84
    France, 674,843, 65, 820, 1, £540
    Sweden, 449,964, 9.5, 530, 1, £33
    Austria, 83,855, 8.5, 477, 6, £36
    Denmark, 43,094, 5.6, 450, 10, £103

    While I can accept that there might be different responsibilities, the differences are startling. The possibility that the agency is grossly overstaffed is therefore real and the failure of the mainstream media to consider the possibility makes them look very foolish.”

    The inefficiency does indeed appear to be quite stark.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      How does the UK’s rainfall compare with the rainfall in other EU countries? What percentage of the UK is rivers compared to other EU countries? Does it make a difference the UK is an island, while all the other EU countries you mentioned have a land border?

      You can’t simply compare to UK’s budget to other EU countries when these organisations are dealing with different circumstances. I would be interesting to know how much Iceland and Cyprus spend on their equivalent agencies.

      • Bob
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        @uanime5
        The British budget is 1,429% that of Germany with 814% of the German staffing levels.

        Such disparity cannot be explained away by rainfall differentials.

        It’s all about non-job creation.

        • uanime5
          Posted February 4, 2014 at 12:00 am | Permalink

          Bob your claims about non-jobs because the EA is larger than the German equivalent is deeply flawed. If the EA in the UK has to deal with more problems than their German equivalent or has a wider remit then it would be expected that they’d have a larger budget.

  16. Leslie Singleton
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Why is the word “dyke” not part of our vocabulary as it is for the Dutch? Holland is mostly below sea level but they manage well enough. All we gear about is homes and villages falling in to ease. What we need is huge new reservoirs near the heads of all flooding reservoirs–perhaps underground–enormous soakaways in effect with the spoil transported to fill in behind new dykes especially on the East Anglian coast.

  17. Posted February 2, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    As a retired engineer, I noticed throughout my career that it was always the maintenance budgets that got cut when money was tight. The result, over a period, tends to be that maintenance is only carried out when something actually breaks. Preventative maintenance is deferred or ignored to such an extent that, when there is a problem, it is far worse, and it costs far more to fix, than if routine maintenance had been carried out.
    We see this all around us; typically pot-holes in the roads are ignored until they become of such a size that a vehicle is damaged; roadside trees are not cut back, pavements are not repaired – the list is endless.
    The trouble is that maintenance work is not “sexy” and those engineers involved in such work tend to be looked down upon compared with those planning new projects. More importantly, the political leadership likes to build or make things that can been seen as achievements and opened with much publicity. No politician is going to want to say that he’s spent millions on infrastructure maintenance – there’s nothing he can actually point to and claim responsibility for its construction.
    This, I suspect is one of the main problems at the Environment Agency. Dredging rivers, repairing river banks, upgrading pumps, etc, are boring compared with building new bird sanctuaries at many times the cost. We need to bring back the old Ministry of Works whose whole purpose in life was the maintenance of public facilities.

    • alan jutson
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      EP

      Absolutely Spot on !

  18. Neil Craig
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    That is horrible and you have done a public service John by bringing it to public attention. Not the sort of news the state funded “balanced by law” BBC propagandists would ever announce – they recently decried a mere 1500 cut by saying the EPA were fighting the floods (when in truth they were causing them).

    Normally I am in favour of cutting parasitic government departments by 90% but looking at these figures it seem that would still leave a lot of waste – indeed a lot of negative value.

    Close the entire organisation. Anything useful they do can be transferred to other departments (along with such staff, if any, as they want, will pay for & will guarantee to be worth having.

  19. Chris
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    The focus of the Environment Agency seems to be on the EU Water Framework Directive, the EU Habitat and Birds Directive, the EU Flooding Directive among others, with policy focusing on preserving habitats and biodiversity in river basins – creation of wetlands, are included in this, and dredging seems to be very much frowned on and is subject to strict regulation in terms of how much can be dredged per meter of ban, what can be done with the “waste”, and prohibition if it interferes with habitats for voles, kingfishers, snails and the like, apparently. You only have to look at the mass of EU legislation (and associated quangos) that has come through since 1994 to see that farming and livelihoods are way down the list of priorities, but that very considerable funding is available for SSIs, wetland creations, ecosystem/bird/animal habitat preservation. Below are some links for starters and the Defra one gives a clear idea of where the emphasis is, and it does not seem to be on preventing flooding and protecting properties and livelihoods:
    http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1374

  20. MaxDunbar
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    If you buy a house in a low lying area with slow flowing rivers near it then of course you are going to be flooded. It’s only a matter of when not if. These areas have always flooded and always will. Best to go in with your eyes open, do some local research, speak to local people and use common sense (and a competent surveyor). If you are not prepared to accept the consequences of living in a flood prone area then either get out or don’t move there in the first place.
    In Scotland, the main issue is landslips and mudslides which affect the few roads connecting the country to the northern areas. Again, there is a limit to what can realistically be done to reduce the disruption and inconvenience that this causes. There are also flood issues here, the river Earn being the most obvious one. It floods every year. This is normal and these flood plains are amongst the most fertile farmland areas that we have.

  21. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic:

    http://euobserver.com/foreign/122972

    “EU commissioner calls for Ukraine accession promise”

    “The EU commissioner who, over the past five years, tried and failed to get Ukraine to sign up to pro-EU reforms has said only the promise of accession can change former Soviet states.”

    So looking at this just from a British perspective, here we have an EU Commissioner, a Czech, saying that to get the Ukrainians to behave properly we must promise them not just the removal of any remaining restrictions on trade with Britain, but also:

    1. Subsidies from British taxpayers.

    2. Their say in how Britain is governed.

    3. The automatic right to come and live and work in Britain.

    And he is supported in that by the President of Romania.

    So can we hope that the British government will refuse to make any such promise?

    Of course not; there has been and still is strong, automatic and unthinking cross-party support for enlargement of the EU, no matter what damage that might do to the people of this country.

    Elsewhere, JR, you say that Parliament has passed a law saying that we must have a referendum before there can be “more Europe”; but we got “more Europe” last year in the form of Croatia, and we weren’t asked about that in a referendum because the law was deliberately written to ensure that we would never have a referendum on whether we wanted another country to join the EU.

    Whether that country is Croatia, or Serbia, now officially a candidate:

    http://euobserver.com/enlargement/122809

    “Serbia starts EU membership talks”

    or the Ukraine, or Turkey, or whatever.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      1. Subsidies from British taxpayers.

      Subsidies from EU countries is the normal arrangement for countries joining the EU.

      2. Their say in how Britain is governed.

      All members of the EU are allowed to vote on EU laws.

      3. The automatic right to come and live and work in Britain.

      This is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU.

      So all your doing is complaining about Ukraine getting the same rights all EU countries get.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Why should I want to give the Ukrainians those rights?

        It’s because I definitely don’t want to give the Ukrainians those rights that I’d vote against allowing the Ukraine to join the EU if that question was put to a UK referendum, just as I would have voted against almost all of the enlargements since 1975 if we had been given the referendums we should have had; of course in those referendums you could have voted the other way, and we could have seen what the majority view was.

  22. Mark
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    If the BBC had done their research properly by looking at the annual reports of the Commissioner for Public Appointments here:

    http://publicappointmentscommissioner.independent.gov.uk/publications/annual-reports/

    they would have discovered that in 2012/13 just 9% of appointments were of people with political affiliations, which it comments is almost the lowest proportion in recent years. However, the report fails to break down the appointments by party and omits the detailed statistical appendix provided in early years (perhaps an FOI would produce it?). By going back to the 2011/12 and 2000/01 reports they would have found the following information:

    Allegiance
    _________Con____Lab______LD_____Other___Total___of N appointments
    2011-12___1.8%___10.2%____0.6%____0.5%____13.3%____1,740
    2010-11___2.0%___5.4%____1.3%____1.7%____10.3%____1,871
    2009-10___1.3%___5.9%____0.9%____0.3%____8.4%____2,239
    2008-09___2.1%___5.5%____1.0%____1.5%____10.2%____2,417
    2007-08___2.2%___5.7%____1.3%____1.1%____10.4%____2,621
    2006-07___2.5%___10.2%____2.0%____1.1%____15.8%____3,863
    2005-06___2.1%___8.3%____1.6%____1.3%____13.3%____2,907
    2004-05___2.5%___8.9%____1.5%____1.5%____14.4%____3,322
    2003-04___2.9%___9.2%____1.3%____1.3%____15.2%____2,878
    2002-03___3.2%___11.7%____1.6%____1.6%____18.6%____3,480
    2001-02___2.7%___14.3%____1.3%____1.3%____20.7%____3,506
    2000-01___3.9%___11.7%____1.3%____1.3%____19.0%____3,856
    1999–00___2.5%___9.7%____1.6%____1.1%____14.8%____2,840
    1998–99___2.5%___12.5%____1.4%____0.8%____17.1%____3,245
    1997–98___2.5%___14.0%____1.7%____0.5%____18.7%____1,930
    1996–97___5.9%___3.3%____0.5%____0.6%____10.3%____1,753

    It is quite clear the extent to which the Labour governments packed the quangos with their own supporters while in office.

    More detailed figures reveal why Labour can justly claim that it is “their” NHS – the proportions of political and Labour appointees appear to have been much higher than these overall data.

    Of course, the BBC will not discuss these data with the proper corrective prominence to counteract their scare story.

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      This is perhaps because Labour people are usually fairly unemployable without such bias in the quango/state sector appointment systems.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      It is quite clear the extent to which the Labour governments packed the quangos with their own supporters while in office.

      Then why was there a major drop in Labour supporters after 2006-07 even though Labour was still in power? Why did 2011-12 have a high level of Labour supporters in quangos and a low level of Conservatives even though the Conservatives are in power?

      Could it be because more Labour supporters than Conservative supporters want to work in quangos?

      • Mark
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        Try charting the data. The heaviest years for appointments have the highest proportions of Labour inclined appointees. Moreover, the coalition government has continued to appoint many more Labour supporters than supporters of all the other parties combined: in 2011-12 they accounted for 77% of the political appointees.

        You may have a point in the idea that non-Labour supporters are increasingly reluctant to even consider working in quangos. I suggest there two reasons why this may be so: advertising bias at the recruitment stage, favouring a well known left leaning newspaper, and a recognition that joining an organisation that has already been captured and politicised is probably a bad career move, even if you manage to land the job. I don’t suppose the Labour Party employs many non-supporters in its offices – let alone in senior roles.

        The statutory requirements for promoting diversity centre on sex, race and disability, not political affiliation, as the Commissioner’s reports make clear.

    • Neil Craig
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      The fact that these jobs go to the 3 parties almost irrespective of who is in government (albeit Labour get the lions share at all times) suggests we live not so much in a democracy as under a cartel of parties for whom elections are a necessary pantomime.

      I note that the membership from “other” parties has dropped. Being naturally suspicious my guess would be that what has happened is that “Greens” who are very much an approved party, have seen their dole dropped because it makes it even more obvious that the divvy excludes UKIP which is not part of the cartel.

  23. The PrangWizard
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    The leader of the Greens, I can’t remember her name, was on The Daily Politics today. She pronounced that ‘all the experts’ were saying that dredging won’t work. She seemed very nervous. Her answer seems to be that river waters should be slowed as much as possible and allowed to overflow into fields, and that anyway bridges and towns were the problem. She’s mad and dangerous. She wasn’t fazed by being told that the £30m had been spent on a bird sanctuary, observing that it may be having the effect of holding flood water and thus is money well spent. Andrew Neil pointed out that the people in Somerset who knew more about these things than her were urging dredging but she was having none of it.

    I am attempting to get our local parish council to dredge our local pond, which is in fact a sump to take flood waters. We’ve cleaned and dredged almost all the ditches and culverts and the water has flowed freely this year, so it does work. The pond is almost completely silted up and doesn’t hold much water any more, and in the summer is almost completely dry. I’m told that it can’t be done in one go as that would require an expensive survey first to see how many protected critters live in it, and no doubt if there are any they would need to be moved first and then returned in due course, at more expense. Even a negative survey will eat up a substantial proportion of the councils funds. The council is afraid of the bureaucrats. So, if we do anything it will have to be small areas at a time. This of course adds to costs, the contractor having to come back time and again over a period of years.

    So, at a local level and at a national one we are as nation cowed by the power of fanatical conservationists and environmentalists, backed by weak government. They are dragging us back to the stone age. When, O when, is someone going to tell them firmly and unequivocally to shut up, and when is nonsensical legislation to be repealed. Is anyone looking at this? They have convinced far too many people that our landscape is very fragile and must be protected when in fact it, and the creatures in it, are very robust and recover quickly from adversity, and land is much better for being drained, otherwise it goes to waste. If they had their way vast tracts of England would become waste given the amount of drainage that has been engineered over recent centuries. It’s not just alongside rivers. And I presume drowned wildlife is something they would rather avoid. Maybe not.

    It really is time that we got some backbone and had some form of anti-green revolution.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      When, O when, is someone going to tell them firmly and unequivocally to shut up, and when is nonsensical legislation to be repealed.

      What legislation are you talking about? Legislation that protects endangered species?

      They have convinced far too many people that our landscape is very fragile and must be protected when in fact it, and the creatures in it, are very robust and recover quickly from adversity

      No they don’t, that’s why they’re endangered.

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        Uni

        “No they don’t, thats why they are endangered”.

        Oh but they are far more sensible than many humans, they actually move on to another area, and or adapt to a new one.

        I am certainly not one to agree to completely trash the countryside in the name of so called progress, but we could certainly do with less weight of argument being used by the so called “Conservationists” to stop very necessary infrastructure improvements like roads, flood protection etc.

    • Mark
      Posted February 2, 2014 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      I do not understand why the media give platforms to these cranks. It isn’t even entertainment to listen to their nonsense.

    • Monty
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:06 am | Permalink

      I agree Prang, the Greenshirts have to have their ears pinned back.

      I am sick to death of hearing that dredging and culvert clearance isn’t in itself a complete panacea.
      I’m a fire detection and suppression engineer. Smoke detectors are not a complete panacea, neither are sirens, neither are fire doors, neither are sprinklers, and neither is the fire brigade. But that is no excuse for sitting back and letting property burn down, and people die. Do one, or just a few of those things and you make a massive difference. Do none of them and you belong in jail.

      • Edward2
        Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        Thank heaven for the common sense of engineers like you Monty.
        An excellent post.

        • Chris
          Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, how cheering to read something like this, Monty.

  24. Antisthenes
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    If there is ever a case to reduce the role of government and size of the state this is it. Quangos and the like it appears is all about job creation, inefficiency and waste and not performing any service that is very useful. This state of affairs cannot be sustained and a root and branch reform of it is needed where vast swathes of bureaucracy are swept away and the private sector be contracted to implement environmental schemes based on local and environmental needs overseen by a small environmental department of the Ministry . A bloated environmental agency is not needed as local councils can call in experts when and if needed. It will not be of course but eventually it will collapse anyway as this coupled with many other things that government does and gets wrong and is inefficient and wasteful at is in the long run unsustainable.

  25. Chris
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    The focus of the Environment Agency seems to be on the EU Water Framework Directive, the EU Habitat and Birds Directive, the EU Flooding Directive among others, with policy focusing on preserving habitats and biodiversity in river basins – creation of wetlands, are included in this, and dredging seems to be very much frowned on and is subject to strict regulation in terms of how much can be dredged per meter of ban, what can be done with the “waste”, and prohibition if it interferes with habitats for voles, kingfishers, snails and the like, apparently. You only have to look at the mass of EU legislation (and associated quangos) that has come through since 1994 to see that farming and livelihoods are way down the list of priorities, but that very considerable funding is available for SSIs, wetland creations, ecosystem/bird/animal habitat preservation. See Defra website, restorerivers eu website and information daily Jan 7, 2014 article which give a clear idea of where the emphasis is, and it does not seem to be on preventing flooding by restoring the capacity/flow of the river, or protecting properties and livelihoods:

    • Chris
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      R North subjects the flooding question to some rigorous analysis in his article
      “EU policy: deliberately flooding the Somerset Levels”. In order to understand exactly what went on and why it is very definitely worth looking at the eureferendum blog.

  26. Peter Stroud
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Anyone listening to the leader of the Green Party this morning on BBC 4, would realise that the Greens are the last group in the world to listen to, with regard to farming on the Somerset Levels. The Environment Agency have for too long, listened to Green, so called, conservationists. These people have had much too much influence over successive governments., now it is time to ignore them.

  27. uanime5
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    The staff costs of the Agency rose by £30m or 8% compared to the previous year, reaching a total of £395.3 million.. The Agency employed 12,252 people including temps and contractor personnel.

    Staff costs will rise if there’s more staff, their pay is increased, or both. Given that the government is planning to cut 1,500 staff from the EA and the number of public sector jobs have been falling for years it’s unlikely that more staff have been hired over the past year, which is probably why they’re having such difficulty coping with the floods.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/28/dredging-rivers-flooding-environment-agency-somerset

    It looks as if the Agency has got the balance of its budget wrong.

    No the minister Owen Patterson got the balance wrong because he refused to accept that climate change will result in more extreme weather and punished anyone who disagreed with him.

    It needs to do more and spend more of its large budget on works on the ground, probably using contractors not on its own payroll, to keep the water flowing.

    Well if the coalition didn’t keep cutting their budget they would be able to spend more money on these areas. Just like Bush’s cuts to the public sector resulted in the flooding in New Orleans so have the Conservatives’ cuts to the public sector resulted in flooding in parts of England. But that’s what happens when a political party keeps cutting government departments so the wealthy can have tax cuts.

    It is an interesting to note that under the Coalition this quango has continued to be chaired by a senior Labour person.

    Unlike Ofsted where Gove is planning to replace a Labour person with a Conservative donor.

    he has clearly not made sufficient attempt to get value for money nor to ensure the Agency’s priorities are our priorities – keeping people and property safe from floods, and ensuring a good supply of clean fresh water for households and businesses.

    Well there’s only so much you can do when the minister refuses to accept that climate change will cause more flooding and keeps reducing your budget. Especially when the Conservatives keep trying to blame you for all the errors they made.

    In other news the Conservatives’ 10% reduction in council tax relief has resulted in millions of low paid workers and disabled people being pushed into greater poverty by rising council tax costs. Expect this policy to cost the Conservatives a lot of votes at the next election.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/poll-tax-mark-ii-pushes-britains-poorest-into-debt-9101703.html

    • Mark
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      It is clear that the Environment Agency suffers from over-staffing – see the post by Dr John Galan above. He omitted the comparisons made relative to coastline length, but they are also highly unfavourable to the UK, as are comparisons based on rainfall – map here:

      http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/average-annual-precipitation

      The problem is that the Agency spends it time and resources on the wrong things – try searching for “inside the environment agency” and reading the whistleblower blog.

      This failure has been going on a long time, not just since September 2012 when he became Environment Secretary. He seems to be the first Environment Secretary to have realised there is a problem at the EA, and to try to do something about it. Eliminating wasteful spending frees money to be spent in useful ways or for tax reductions.

      As several prominent climate scientists and the Met Office have made clear, the present rains are simply abnormal weather, and not due to any trends in climate.

      It is unremarkable that the EA is chaired by a Labour person: in the period 1996-2012, more that 3.5 times as many Labour supporters were appointed to quangos as Conservatives.

    • Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      77% of political appointees to Quangos since 1997 have gone to Labour supporting individuals – this includes the period since 2010.

      Don’t recollect you having a go at the political bias then.

  28. Matt
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    “…..has clearly not made sufficient attempt to get value for money nor to ensure the Agency’s priorities are our priorities – keeping people and property safe from floods”.

    The EA has actively implemented or funded protection for several thousand properties over the past decade. I live in one of the properties that doesn’t suffer from flooding because of their work. I’d like to pass on my thanks.

  29. Mike Wilson
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    This is just too depressing. It seems some areas of the public sector exist just to give people well paid and pensioned jobs.

  30. Bazman
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Some of the cuts are just stupid. In Barrow-in-Furness there is an area that is about six feet below sea level and flooded quite often due to this and heavy rain. A pumping station and holding tank was installed in the 1930’s and thus prevented the flooding of a large number of homes and businesses. Now this building being quite large is often struck by lightening and tripping out the automatic pumps. A engineering was kept on standby for such occasions. Now to reduce costs the engineer was took of standby and sure enough during a storm the station was hit by lightning and the pumps stopped leading to flooding of a large number of homes and businesses. Some with no insurance. The company after trying to wriggle out of their responsibilities eventually paid up. The residents threw all their ruined household goods over the railings of the pumping station. I saw this and it wasn’t pretty sight.
    All this because they would not pay one man a couple of quid for being on standby. Residents said that when he did turn up the pumps where running in minutes.

    • Edward2
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      But these are not cuts Baz.
      These are deliberate decisions not to spend money they have and to spend it elsewhere.
      See the excellent post on here explaining how money once properly spent on maintenance has been diverted to more exciting new projects.

      • Bazman
        Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        You are against lack of maintenance? Just run everything into the ground. An expensive way to run a car or a house. It was a cut in the maintenance budget to save money and take the chance that nothing untoward would happen. A stupid gamble to save a few quid that did not pay off. The main thing being not paying any wages out no matter what the consequences. Is there anything you will not defend? Letting nature take its course may all be well and good, but who is going to pay for the compensation for lost homes and land bought and built in faith of existing flood defences?

  31. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s the old, old story. If you have fewer resource allocators, you have more to spend on resources. I thought that Conservative governments were supposed to know this.

  32. EA employee
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    John,

    sorry for not being able to give a real name but please appreciate my situation. I work in the Environment Agency and to say this place is disfunctional is an understatement. I could make many points about the poor management and misaligned priorities, allow me to make one:

    The Environment Agency is the master of spin. There are a huge number of communications staff employed to make the EA “sound good” it’s finally coming home to roost that senior management have done far too little “doing” and far too much “talking”.

    Please see the following links for more information.

    and

    Thank you for bringing this to people’s attention. The protection of our natural environment is very important. It is also difficult, with many conflicting priorities, however this organisation is broken and cannot further these aims any more.

    Regards,

    Anon

  33. Ferdinand
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I have been told that the EU instructed the Environment Agency to stop dredging the rivers on the Somerset Levels in order to promote aquatic bird habitats. Yet another costly EU interference.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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