Yesterday morning I heard a patsy interview of a senior manager of the Environment Agency. It started with sympathy for the difficult time they are experiencing, went on to ask them if they needed more money to do their job, and ended with the usual invitation to express the helplessness of the Agency before the force of climate change. I can only assume the BBC are colluding with this body, as I know they can give tough interviews if they wish. You would have thought they would pick up the public anger. Don’t they think it unacceptable that people have flooded homes and businesses? Isn’t the main point of the Agency to do what it takes to protect us from floods and ensure we are supplied with clean water and a good waste water service? Where did the £1200 million spent last year go?
What should they have asked?
They should first have explored the issue of whether it is a deliberate policy of the Agency to allow large parts of the country to be flooded, as they seem to wish to restore old landscape prior to the draining of the land to create homes and farms for people. It appears from various EA statements that they do hanker after more wetlands and fewer farms and homes in certain areas. It also appears from the Chairman’s recent article that they think they can only protect urban areas, and will sacrifice rural ones. Clearly it is government policy to protect people and farms from flooding wherever possible. The Agency may be at variance with this aim.
They should have asked where all the £1200 million spent last year went. Why was only £20 m spent on maintaining ditches and culverts? Why so little on dredging? Have dredging machines been sold off for scrap or allowed to rust without use in some places as has been alleged? Why did the INCREASE in the staff budget, £30m, exceed the total spend on essential maintenance?
They should have asked why the Agency seems to think it is sufficient to warn people of impending floods, rather than putting in place the bunds, barriers, pumps and other methods to divert the water from homes and businesses?
I want Ministers to bring this quango to account. It will probably need a new Chairman to give it a sense of urgency, to sharpen its priorities in the way most people want, and get value out of the huge sums its spends.