Environment Agency – a large pension fund with more than 11,000 staff attached

 

The total liability the Environment Agency and the taxpayers share for the future pensions of Agency staff is now at a massive £2.5bn. There are assets, leaving a £380million deficit on these numbers. The Pension fund is valued on the assumption that staff salaries will rise by 4.6% per annum from 2015.

The Agency does not seem to be a good manager of its staff, nor able to raise productivity. Last year it increased staff numbers by 900. Despite doing this it also agreed redundancy packages for 43 people, costing us another £2.6milllion. In other words it makes bad recruitment decisions, changes its mind, gives people a pay off, yet is at the same time expanding the overall numbers considerably. Having gone to the expense and trouble of recruiting someone, why can they then find nothing for them to do, fire them, and hire twenty other people with all the costs that entails?

The Agency has seven Directors on salaries in excess of £130,000, with the best paid on nearly £200,000. That is well above the Prime Minister’s pay. It would be good to hear from the Directors of this body what they are going to do to get better value for money, and to ensure more of the £1200 million a year spend goes on flood prevention and water management. Perhaps the BBC would like to call in the Chairman or CEO and ask them, based on the figures?

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89 Comments

  1. Roy Grainger
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Just scanning the CV of Baron Smith of Finsbury who is Chairman of the environment agency I see no experience at all of running a large organisation (without help from professional civil servants). It is hardly surprising then that it is run in an inept way. We all complain about the unelected and unaccountable EU wasting our money but all these home-grown quangos do exactly the same – how can we get rid of Smith ? We can’t. As the Prime Minister apparently has had to step in on the flooding issue it shows that it should have been under ministerial control in the first place.

    Reply I expect Lord Smith to leave later this year.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply,
      Why was his term ever extended by a Conservative minister? His sole qualification for the job is that he is a politician. The Telegraph published an interview with him on 17 January this year in which he said:
      “Routine: I get up around 7am and go to bed quite late. I’m usually racing from meeting to meeting, making sure I’m in the right place at the right time. I spend some time at the Environment Agency, some time at the Advertising Standards Agency, and some time in the House of Lords, especially when there are votes or debates on the arts, environment or the creative industry. Those three take up most of my time, and other things get fitted in as well.”
      I rest my case.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        The Advertising Standards Agency hardly does a good job either.

        Was there not an advert that claimed “paying tax does not have to be taxing”? and “one red bus is greener than 56 cars” or something similar. Absurdly comparing the average occupancy of cars with the mere capacity of buses.

        The average occupancy of buses is often more like 6 (depot to depot) and they keep stopping every few yards to block the roads for others and take indirect routes.

        So many adverts have so little to do with truth in any real sense.

    • Arschloch
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Why not just get a rid of now? This is all too reminiscent of the man who was in charge of FEMA at the time of Hurricane Katrina, whose previous job was in running show jumping events. Like Brownie, tell Smith he is doing a great job then sack him. Its getting beyond a joke now, remember when the Care Quality Commission was run by a former PR from the pasta industry, who happened to be married to the man who set up the CQC in the first place? Why is there not a parliamentary committee looking at the suitability of appointees, rather than have us wait for the scandal that eventually gets them removed?

      • uanime5
        Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

        Well replacing the head of an organisation while this organisation is dealing with a major crisis just makes it harder for this organisation to deal with this crisis because it takes a while before the new manager is fully trained.

        • Edward2
          Posted February 7, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          Not necessarily Uni,
          If you bring in a new dynamic expert with good leadership skills, the difference can be immediate and positive in any organisation that is badly led.
          A change of policy allowing staff on the ground to do what they know is the right solution is what is needed.

    • Majorfrustration
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      To be replaced by another inept political idiot

    • Mark B
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      Yes, with a nice Golden Handshake and a new job in Government post 2015.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Comment on Reply–Smith was elected as an MP but that proves precisely nothing about anything except that he is good at being elected. One gets elected by being personable and even beautiful these days but that’s about it. Did anybody try to identify any qualifications Smith had for the job? A Masters in Hydrology, maybe, that sort of thing. Obviously, the way we are run, they just had to find somewhere to park him. Same with Patten, who knows as much about Broadcasting as I do.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I expect him to leave on 13 July 2014 at the end of his (second) three year contract. My point is that we as voters have no way of getting rid of him prior to that, or even after that if Mr Cameron chooses to reappoint him.

    • Mark
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      I imagine it will generate euphoria to rank alongside that at the relief of Ladysmith.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply:
      Hopefully not to do more damage elsewhere?
      A bizarre appointment-this man is inclined to arty things, has a strong background in the “finer” subjects – how does he get to chair an agency whose activities lean heavily on science and engineering?

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      How very convenient and predictable that the Establishment should protect Smith. Wouldn’t do to sack the smug incompetent now would it? How many of us saw him on the news today, with his rictus face on, refusing to resign because ‘there’s a lot of work to do’. I presume he means the work he hasn’t been doing these last few years.

      Do you think he should be allowed to see his term out, Mr Redwood? Do you think he is the man to see the work through even for the next few months? Do you think he should be sacked as soon as he gets back to London, or are you prepared to go along with giving him the easy way out so he can keep his benefits?

  2. Bob
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink


    Perhaps the BBC would like to call in the Chairman or CEO and ask them, based on the figures?

    Don’t hold your breath. The BBC prefer not to discuss public sector fat cattery (too close to home).

    • Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      You took the words from my mouth. Grrrrr.

    • Larry Hooverman
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Remember, as far as the BBC is concerned, being qualified for the job comes second to ensuring that the Gender balance is right and there is representation of ethic minorities, Lesbians and Gays.

      • lifelogic
        Posted February 7, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Indeed to the BBC and many politicians it is just like arranging flowers. This on the basis of gender, colour, religion, disability, ethnic background, sexuality, political affiliations ……………. an ability to do the job competently come very low on the list.

    • cosmic
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      The BBC would probably prompt them to agree that the fiasco was caused by climate change and was much worsened by Tory cuts.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Out of control, run by the staff for the benefit (and pensions) of the staff. Arranged do as little of real value as they can get away with. All this while running a premium rate phone call business and charging as much as they can get away with for fees and licences. While trying to scare the public through the media whenever they can.

    Empire build for the enrichment of the senior staff. All overseen by ex-Labour people with English literature degrees and many other jobs. Just like so much of the state sector, but perhaps rather worse than most.

    The only positive is that it shows how very much of the state sector is totally pointless or ever positively damaging. 70% cuts in the state sector overhead, with no loss of real service to the public, is quite possible. But could we ever get a government to get serious? Big state Cameron has done virtually nothing to make cuts and efficiencies.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 1:15 am | Permalink

      Cameron could start making cuts and efficiencies with himself. I notice that his suits are getting a bit tight and I heard him say that he would be visiting the flood hit areas today. A bit of ditch digging would do him no harm, show that he is prepared to muck in and possibly save him from having to order new suits.

  4. Hope
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    JR, has there been a deliberate policy by the EA to flood the Somerset levels on the understanding of an EU directive? Why has equipment been sold off or scrapped? Why do we need the ministry as well as an EA, so add the figures from the ministry as well and we might get somewhere near the true cost of the disgraceful assemble of people who cost a fortune but provide little service. Why has the Tory party continue to have so many Labour advisers?

    • Hope
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Why has Cameron pledged £100 million pounds to help flooding which is about the cost of 3 days of the of £14 billion pounds spent on overseas aid. Why does he continue to spend £55 million pounds a day to the EU which helps infrastructure for EU countries when the UK is desperate for the money to be spent here? And he still persists with the EU project for HS 2 w he t he money could be spent on better infrastructure, if not why keep a report on HS2 a secret?

      • Lifelogic
        Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Indeed they cannot even keep open a tiny section of main railway line to Cornwall open, nor dredge a few Somerset rivers and streams. Yet they waste billions on wind and PV subsidies, billions on HS2 & Boris wants a major (5?) runway hub airport all built in the sea and away from the main passengers! One assumes with some new rail link too.

        We are led by complete deluded fake green Donkeys.

        5 runway Heathwick and a bit of maintenance and selective dredging and sea defences is all we need.

        • Hope
          Posted February 7, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

          The EA might be ridding the people and businesses on the Somerset levels by stealth for a perceived EU directive to help the wildlife habitat. However, they could buy the homes and businesses by a CPO. Moreover, mass building continues around the area to accommodate mass immigration.

      • Jennifer A
        Posted February 6, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        The people have noticed this.

        The questions raised in this comment are often the first I hear raised in ANY conversation on the subject.

      • Vanessa
        Posted February 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        The HS2 Report was leaked to the Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan reported on this disastrous report on HS2. The findings are so awful that the government (aka European Union) could not possibly let more people read it.

    • Steven Granger
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Well said but one also might question why the well known “Eurosceptic”, John Redwood, has made no mention of the role of EU directives in the flooding in this or his previous posts on the subject. One would think that this would be the ideal opportunity for a genuine Eurosceptic to highlight the negative impact of EU policies. Is he not aware of this (despite many commenters highlighting it) or is he just toeing the party line as usual?

      Reply I agree they play a role and NO I do not as usual follow the party line.

      • Chris
        Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        You are right to raise this issue, Steven. In a debate/question session in the H of C the other day, not one MP brought up the link with the EU. What hope is there of resolving a problem if the basic cause is not even acknowledged? It is a bit like Fawlty Towers and don’t mention the War.
        http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140203/debtext/140203-0001.htm#1402035000001

        Reply: There is a tendency by MPs close to the old Labour government or this Coalition government to act as if the UK is free to make all its own decisions when as you rightly point out many decisions are now dictated or constrained by the EU. As I only had the chance to ask one question I wanted to highlight the role and high costs of the Environment Agency, which we can do something about, rather than a series of unhelpful EU Directives which we cannot change.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted February 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          Parliament could disapply those unhelpful Directives.

  5. alexmews
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    thx John

    I agree with the line of inquiry – and support it, not just for this quango – but also for the rest. Unfortunately, the buck does still stop with the Government and the Minister, no? You are the ones taking my taxes and allocating them and setting up the regulatory regimes in which these bodies operate.

    I fear another Qunago coming on here – OffQuango or somesuch – to try and enforce management standards in the new ‘third way’ industry that has bloomed like a virus over the past 25 years….

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the government and ministers are the only people there who should protect voters/taxpayers interests. They should stop the quangos and government department from completely taking the P*** as many are. Delivering almost nothing of value, taking remuneration 150% above private sector levels and retiring on huge pensions and pay offs.

      The government and ministers have failed totally, indeed it seems most are in on the state sector career gravy train racket too. All fanned on by the lefty to a man or woman BBC.

  6. Chris
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I understand from G Fawkes website that “the Environment Agency for England alone has more staff than the Canadian, Danish, French, German, Swedish and Austrian equivalents, combined! Only the US Environmental Protection Agency has more staff, (15,913 versus 11,200) hardly surprising given the US is some eighty times larger than the UK with six times the population….”
    It would also be interesting to find out how many related quangos there are. On a visit to Nobel House about 18 months ago, I picked up a glossy brochure for the EA, and it was packed full of acronyms for all manner of related organisations. I actually commented on this at the time saying that bureaucracy seems to have gone mad.

  7. ChrisS
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    You MPs and the Government need to take more direct responsibility for running the country instead of constantly blaming third parties when things are not going well.

    If you think there are too many agencies/quangos then for goodness sake change the structure!

  8. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Somebody commented a while back elsewhere that he went to an EA office to negotiate sales of particular instrumentation. He was astonished at the high level of furnishings at this office. Just about the best curtains and stuff imaginable. Sold much less than was initially requested and shared between more staff than would be expected.

    Its a management issue alright…I certainly have never been exposed to any extravagance in my engineering career, except at two old hotels down Northumberland Ave (Char X)

  9. forthurst
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Perhaps things were better run in the bad old days, before the centralisation of everything, when local councils and local people took responsibility for their own affairs, without the overall assistance of an expert on the Lyrical Ballads. How much of what is run from Whitehall actually needs a one-size-fits-all approach? How would local organisations cope with the terrent of regulations from the centralised, ever expanding and incroaching EU? Next question.

  10. Majorfrustration
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    JR – Its about time the Government surprised us and made a few difficult decisions – getting rid of DC might be a good start.

  11. Roger Farmer
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    You are asking the right questions. I would go further and point out that of the £1.2 Billion they spend, £419.9 Million goes on staff and pensions, or put another way £41,990 per person for the 10,000 they employed in 2012. I would assume that those at the sharp end do not get anywhere near this amount. Other expenditure is a further £404.9 Million. A tidy sum for who knows what. Maybe the fact that they run a vehicle for every two employees accounts for some.
    All this expenditure before they dredge a bucket of mud. Total spent on works is £222.8 Million. Not much in the scheme of things when you learn that millions of this goes into making life cosy for birds and mammals most of whom can up sticks and away if things get too uncomfortable with them. Unlike the farmers and residents of the afflicted areas.
    At the moment our focus is on the plight of those in the Somerset Levels. I suspect that all is not rosy in our other river systems.
    It is all symptomatic of the totally amateurish way in which government operates. Ministers should be there to guide their departments along the lines of the political philosophy of the day, a philosophy that has been voted for. When there is failure they should be held to account.
    The personnel running ministries should be professionals with expertise in the field. There is no room for political appointees , quangos or civil servants who are not or do not understand civil engineering in the case of the EA. To quote yet another example why is HMRC run by individuals who have no tax qualifications.
    In the case of the EA I would suggest a top down cull until you reach the level at which people who are qualified and know what they are doing.
    It brings to mind visits during my working life to Japan. Every director I ever met, and there were many, could conduct your tour of the factory explaining every process on every machine because in their early lives it was where they were trained. This was true of all none engineering directors as well as those with technical responsibilities.
    What in hell does Sir Humphrey, with a degree in Classics know about draining the Somerset Levels. His expertise is in growing a ministry to a point where he gets his “K” on retirement. What a way to run a ship.

  12. alan jutson
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Whilst I am sure it is rather more complex than you suggest, it always is, these figures are truely staggering.

    But why am I not surprised.

    I am not surprised because given the amount of tax take the government gets, we seem to get very little in return, therefore sensible reasoning suggests a huge amount is being wasted, with thousands of non productive staff.

    Why is anyone in any Government Department, getting more than the Minister in charge of that Department, let alone the Prime Minister.

    These pension schemes are simply not sustainable in the long term, those of us who have worked and funded these schemes through our taxes, cannot even dream of funding such pensions with the disposable income which is left after tax.

    Just like any Company which goes into receivership, when you dig deep the financial situation is always far, far worse than at first thought.
    I guarantee if you really dug deep into all Government Departments finances it would be the same, a complete financial mess with such low real productivity to be almost criminal.

    Will it ever end, who has the courage to grasp the nettle and do something about it !

    Something has to change, the State is slowly bleeding us dry.

  13. The PrangWizard
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Much like the rest of the State bureaucracy – out of control, and not many who wish to try to control it. Those who do are frustrated it seems at every turn. And there seems to be no remedy. We the people are powerless. I’d like to call for a revolution, but it’s only the Left which is organised. If only there were a mechanism by which we could with-hold our taxes.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:37 am | Permalink

      You could begin the revolution by making it unpleasant for your MP. Go and visit him/her and give them a piece of your mind. Most of the time they are dealing with dreary moans from constituents who come back again and again – the same people who haunt doctors’ surgeries (and blog spots even!) and who tend to be petty time-wasters.
      The trouble is that your MP may find it a relief to be asked some serious questions of national concern.

  14. william
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I live 300 yards from the River Arun, and have observed the antics of the EA for 17 years.They arrive ,regularly, in a convoy of 2 brand new four wheel drive vehicles,each with 2 people,who then inspect the river and the adjoining railway line,and then leave. Output, work,repairs, NIL.

  15. nigel
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    To whom does the EA report? Surely they must be accountable to someone. Why cannot a ban on recruitment be put in place? If they are responsible to the Ministry then they should step in and put things in order.

    If this were a subsidiary of a company, that is what would happen, and heads would roll.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      The EA is accountable to DEFRA, which Owen Paterson is in charge of. This is why he keep chairing all the COBR meetings regarding these floods.

      • Posted February 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Ah – but there’s the rub – the EA are NOT actually accountable as civil servants because they are an “Agency” and the game is that they presume to be government when it suits and an “independent agency” also when it suits. This is constitutionally no-man’s land and they are quite happy to be there :-)

  16. Richard1
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Whenever one of these public sector bodies comes under scrutiny we are astonished at the size, scope and cost of it – and usually of its utter ineffectiveness. Often the ineffectiveness is due to politicisation. No doubt one of the reasons we are so inadequately prepared for floods in the South-West, though that area of the country has been prone to floods for centuries, is agencies such as the EA, the Met Office and others have been focusing on the increased likelihood of droughts due to global warming.

    What is heartening is it shows how much scope there is to make huge cuts in public expenditure without affecting any useful public services. The more outrages such as you detail above are exposed, the less tolerant the public will be. The reason these high cost quangos continue so long is they are not subject to public scrutiny until they are directly responsible for some disaster.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      The Met Office came to give us a talk at the local flying club a few years back. Large glossy brochure provided – content nil. Long boring talk – self promotion and no mention of the weather.
      Then I was disappointed, now I would know what to expect and not have my time wasted.

  17. Richard1
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Will Lady Morgan be given a pay-off following her removal as head of Ofstead? I hope not. Were she in the private sector and had left a senior position with a compromise agreement, one of the terms would have been that she should not utter public abuse of her employer. Lady Morgan has chosen to whinge publicly and assert that the non-renewal of her contract is political. The price for this baseless outburst must be no pay-off.

  18. Mark B
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    You could also say; ” UK Government – large pension fund with even more staff attached.”

    The questions I’d like asked are:

    How has did this come about, considering most of our laws are done by a foreign power and, all we do now is stick a UK cover over any legislation ?

    What has this Government done in nearly 4 years of office to reduce the level of this bureaucratic monolith of a State ?

    When will we see those resposible for failures, whether they be in failed NHS Trusts, Banks, or various agencies (proxies of the EU) held to account and fined and / or imprisoned ?

    It seems to me that, only the ‘little people’ tend to get punished. Whereas, those who are in a position that has caused greater damage or financial loss, seem to either go unpunished into another State funded job or, handsomely rewarded at taxpayers expense. Or is this just bitter old me ?

  19. rick hamilton
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Oh for a tough businesslike Chancellor who would instruct all public sector management to reduce their salaries to less than that of the PM within 6 months, or leave. Perhaps a public hearing in which they were made to justify why they are paid so much would be motivational.

    These people often claim that they are supervising a similar budget, or greater, than that of ‘equivalent’ private sector management. However they are only responsible for spending money – which any fool can do as Gordon Brown so convincingly demonstrated – whereas the poor devil in the private business has to generate the money first.

  20. Edward Dawson
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Is Natural England as bad? NE do work once done by amateur naturalists. Perhaps amalgamate them with EA and cut them both down to size.

  21. ian wragg
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Last night watching the news on BBC it was about 30 seconds before the commentator mentioned global warming. He interviewed a lady who tried to explain that dredging and clearing water courses had for centuries kept the property clear although from time to time the Levels would flood to some degree.
    This obviously didn’t fit in with his brief and he tried to turn the conversation around with no luck.
    NEVER has it been mentioned that the Levels have been allowed to flood by the EA under EU directive to create wetlands for habitats.

    • Anonymous
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Rumours abound that it was the EA responsible for Dawlish. The beach had been washed away (a natural water break) and the EA were delaying bringing it back – to assess the impact on bird life.

  22. Larry Hooverman
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    This is the same (malfunctioning ed) appointment system which see the likes of Rev. Paul Flowers appointed to the Coop. All these QUANGO appointments really need better scrutiny.

    This former Labour Media Minister and MP for Islington South and Finsbury is London born and bred! He’s probably rarely been outside the M25.

  23. alan jutson
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Off Topic

    I see it is reported in todays National Press, that a fully fit Police officer has been awarded £440,000 plus costs, as compensation against his fellow Police officers, for his hurt feelings.

    Seems they had a laugh at his expense over how he tried to smash the window of a pensioners car in attempting to arrest him.

    The compensation is equal to more than 12 years salary at the top earnings rate as an officer.

    Have we gone stark staring mad ?

    Yet another case of OUR MONEY being absolutely squandered.

    How many taxpayers with earnings of £25,000 per year will it have taken to pay for this award, plus of course all of those attending the trial and pre trail work for prosecution and defence.

    If I had, had £440,000 awareded to me for every time I had had the micky taken out of me, I would be a multi millionair by now.

    Simply staggering.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      “Have we gone stark staring mad?”

      Clearly yes, the courts have gone mad, but it is in their personal interests to do so and the government has failed to stop it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Grossly offensive to all those people & soldiers who have lost limbs, their sight and far worse yet get far less.

  24. Martin Ryder
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    When looking at these figures you need to differentiate between the front-line staff and the back-office people. The staff in their hi-viz jackets working in the pouring rain, often in the middle of the night, need to be praised, rather than pilloried. The Executive Agency is like the MOD, where there are large numbers of civil servants doing work that is vital to our defences working alongside people who are more use to our enemies than they are to us.

    Every government department and QUANGO can easily find reasons why they should expand and pay more to their senior staff. Everyone, whether private or public workers, wants to believe that the work that they do is useful, though most people also like to moan about their work and their bosses. Most people can easily identify room for cuts in other areas of work but it is rare for them to be able to identify, or agree to, cuts in their own. Indeed they are always short staffed, overworked and underpaid.

    In the private sector the need to make a profit forces managers to find savings, though I am sure that the arguments are loud and long about which part of the business can be cut. The public sector doesn’t have the profit motive, which is why we have government ministers!

    If the EA is too large and too expensive then it is the DEFRA secretary of state who is at fault.

    The whole point of QUANGOs is to let ‘experts’ do their job without political interference. However this does not mean that they can do as they please where the taxpayers’ money is concerned. I would have thought that the EA CEO would have to clear his/her strategic plans with the SofS every year when it is time to set the annual budget.

    This should be the point where the SofS, being the taxpayers’ representative, should exercise control over staff numbers and spending on projects. The SofS should be looking for savings and should also be looking at grand strategy. Do we spend the taxpayers’ money on protecting taxpayers or protecting the greater spotted newt?

    I thought that Paterson was one of the good guys. Perhaps his medical problem has slowed him down, which I hope is successfully sorted out, but he should have thought like a politician and seen what was coming.

  25. Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Government Agencies are far worse that the Civil Service in so far as staff salaries are concerned. When this work was handled by the Civil Service, I’m sure that there would not have been seven civil servants on salaries equivalent to £130k-£200K (after allowing for inflation). Certainly, I don’t believe that the civil service would have been paying off people on one hand and recruiting on the other.
    Out of curiosity, I wonder just how many professional engineers they employ to design and oversee their works such a flood relief schemes. I suspect that this work put out to consultants who charge through the nose because those at the top have no appropriate qualifications to assess any proposals. Do any of the Directors actually have engineering qualifications?

    • bigneil
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 1:18 am | Permalink

      Only being a thickie ex shop floor factory worker – -why do people need engineering qualifications to drive a flash car and sit in an office? – and to occasionally put on a brand new high viz vest and helmet for a photo shoot?

  26. APL
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    JR: “The Agency has seven Directors on salaries in excess of £130,000, with the best paid on nearly £200,000. ”

    Cut it back to £55,000 why are they getting more than an MP?

  27. Chris
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink
  28. acorn
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    JR, perhaps you could ask a minister what progress has been made on implementing “The Public Bodies Act 2011″? On the cabinet list the EA was a “retain and substantially reform” back in 2010″, any progress with lighting this quango’s bonfire?

    PS. Please advise how I can get a job as Chairman of a quango, like the EA, on 105 grand a year for a three day week.

    • APL
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      acorn: “how I can get a job as Chairman of a quango, like the EA, on 105 grand a year for a three day week.”

      Yes, that post would be one that interests me too.

      I have considered writing to the BBC, to ask them if they have a post vacant for someone who can spend three or four years screwing up a massive IT project then leave with a golden goodbye.

      But it looks like the Environment Agency is a much better prospect, 3 days a week, it doesn’t matter if you destroy everyones homes and livelihoods, the worst thing that happens to you is you get shunted sideways into another plush public sector role the sole function of which is to f*** up and get paid obscene amounts of money.

      I can do that.

      • cosmic
        Posted February 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        They don’t let you walk in from nowhere and be in charge of a major disaster just like that.

        You have work your way up the ladder and show that you can create minor disasters and then medium sized disasters before they let you loose on the big ones.

        If they let you get your paws on it, it might be the wrong kind of disaster, or even a success.

        • APL
          Posted February 8, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          Cosmic: ” or even a success.”

          God forbid, for in the public sector, that would be a disaster!

  29. stred
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    HMG have decided to agree with the green leader of Brighton Council, Jason Kitkat. He has sent a leaflet proposing a referendum to approve or not a rise in Council Tax of 5%. This is apparently necessary to pay for adult social care.

    The referendum will only cost around £15ok, as it will be sent out with the European elections. Presumably, this will mean that any voter will have a say, whether they have to pay the tax or not. In Brighton it is fairly certain that the majority will vote for more tax on those that pay. It would seem that Mr Cameron has strange allies.

  30. oldtimer
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    “The Pension fund is valued on the assumption that staff salaries will rise by 4.6% per annum from 2015.”

    Where does that assumption come from? Is this same 4.6% assumption applied to other state pension liabilities? I cannot believe that such private sector schemes as remain use such a high assumption.

  31. cosmic
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    The EA are outrageously dysfunctional and in dire need of sorting out.

    However, don’t let this blind you to the fact that they are only a cog in a machine including Defra, the Committee on Climate Change and numerous others and that they were implementing EU policy.

    This isn’t a simple case of a rogue organisation, it goes much further than the EA.

  32. Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Beat you to it! Two days ago, 4th Feb, in Drowning By Numbers, I wondered if the pensions black hole was the real problem.

  33. ian wragg
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Off Topic.
    The leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), Geert Wilders, will today present a study of the likely economic impact on the Netherlands of exiting the European Union. The study, put together by the consultancy Capital Economics, suggests that if the Netherlands left the EU, Dutch GDP would increase by 10-13% by 2035.
    Open Europe blog Capital Economics study NRC AD
    Now the Dutch are agitating.

  34. Antisthenes
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Day after day examples of mismanagement, waste and inefficiency by government departments and quangos and the like are highlighted yet we are still looking to evermore expand the role and increase the size of the state. It must be obvious by now to even the most intellectually challenged that all forms of governments are wasteful, inefficient, corrupt and seek always to empire build and draw power from the people to themselves. We do have to have governments but they should be very limited in what they are allowed to do be transparent and accountable. We are drifting far away from that ideal and if not reversed which the left will never do then our lives are going to become increasingly miserable.

  35. sm
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Another aspect of the captured state, this time not bankers/politicians but public sector & politicians, worthy of note but again small in the grand scheme of things.

    Too many monopolies & cartels sponsored by government, you have to ask why this pension fund is a state liability and or why the work cant be contracted or controlled more efficiently.

    Seems to be a theme here.

    Still £4bn pa (more if sold) BBC and £1.2bn agency, soon adds up. That could raise the tax free allowance somewhat.

  36. JoeSoap
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    This is another example of the Coalition broom which was supposed to sweep clean in 2010 being left in the broom cupboard. 4 wasted years which should have been used to completely alter the working methods and budgets of these organisations. In this case the placeman put there under our friend Brown gets left in place until somebody actually notices the inadequacies, and then some.
    The BBC is never going to change anything. It’s down to Cameron et al to move these people and systems into a frugal retirement, having had their day.

  37. Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    I admire your tenacity on this subject but would question whether you are (a) shutting the door after the horse has bolted; or, (b) chasing a red herring.

    Do we not have an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee; an Environmental Audit Committee; an EU Sub-Committee D – Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy; and MPs? So just what were they all doing? Having a nap?

    When are any of you going to acknowledge the EU competence in this matter? The Coalition had to make cuts and what better opportunity to do that when an area is handed to them on a plate, so to speak?

    Reply No I am not wasting my time. I am highlighting this Agency now because the flood crisis has made it a matter of national concern and media interest, and there will be a new Chairman soon. – that creates ideal conditions to get some change in the way this body is run , how much it spends and what it spends it on.

  38. Chris
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    This just gets worse. D Tel now reporting that peers were apparently told just days before the storms that work on protecting the Dawlish section of track (which was known to be at risk) could not be undertaken until a bird impact study has been completed. You couldn’t make it up:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/10623109/UK-floods-Environment-Agency-accused-of-putting-birds-before-humans.html

    “…The Environment Agency has been accused of putting the needs of wildlife before those of humans in its management of storm-hit places like Dawlish in Devon.
    Days before the recent winter storms, the agency is said to have told peers that it could not act to protect the railway line at Dawlish from the sea until it had studied the impact of any improvements on local birdlife. …”
    Perhaps some good will come out of this disaster, namely the exposure of the ludicrous situation in which we find ourselves where we are governed ultimately by the eurocrats who apparently put flora and fauna before people’s survival.

  39. Max Dunbar
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Wind up the Environment Agency and with the money saved offer to buy the flooded houses from their unfortunate owners and then demolish them. They must surely be worthless now and the Levels will flood again.

  40. uanime5
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    It would be good to hear from the Directors of this body what they are going to do to get better value for money, and to ensure more of the £1200 million a year spend goes on flood prevention and water management.

    I heard that the amount spent on flood defences was either reduced by the minister Owen Patterson or he approved of a reduction in the anti-flooding budget. In any case it would be good to hear why Owen Patterson didn’t demand more was done to prevent flooding, especially since there’s been about 20 COBRA meeting about flooding recently.

    Reply Another lie. Mr Paterson has consistently sought more money for anti flooding and asked the Agency to get on with it. Their failures have led to more direct intervention in recent weeks.

    • Richard1
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Mr Patterson was probably well aware of the risks of floods and it is no surprise to hear he had been asking for more money for food defences, contrary to Unaime5’s assertion. After all he is one of those sensible politicians who are likely to have been sceptical of the Met Office’s past alarmism regarding ever lasting drought due to global warming.

      Is anyone from the Met Office reading this and could they update us as to whether we are still in a drought in line with their past predictions?

  41. bigneil
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Not being flippant – -anyone want a bet on which day the hosepipe bans come into force?

    • APL
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      bigneil: “hosepipe bans”

      June 25th

  42. Posted February 7, 2014 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Chris

    Guido got his information from insidetheenvironmentagency.co.uk a website set up last year by former EA employee

    It is important to understand EA only carries out orders. These orders come from Climate Change Committee. This document makes it clear the policy has political direction http://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ASC-2013-Chap5_singles_2.pdf

    This post describes some of EU involvement through habitats directive AND the policy decisions that came from DEFRA around 2004 (shortly after DEFRA was created) http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84683

    RSPB and other pressure groups were instrumental in creating habitats directive and their attitude of favouring birds and animals continues

    https://www.rspb.org.uk/news/361036-wildlife-charities-calls-for-a-floodresilient-future-for-the-somerset-levels

    https://www.rspb.org.uk/news/361353-finding-a-more-flood-resilient-future-on-the-levels-for-people-and-wildlife

    http://thefarmingforum.co.uk/index.php?threads/start-packing-you-west-country-boys-girls.16942/

    • stred
      Posted February 8, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Figure 5.4 of the ch 5 document appears to show the Somerset Levels as ‘hold the line’. Unlike some areas in Sussex and others, where the coast is to be abandoned. They also talk about public consultation. It appears that some vole and spagwort enthusiasts in the Agency may have been a bit too keen to chuck away the dredging equipment for the Levels and save the money on barriers, culverts and sluices.

      What would the Dutch make of this? Both countries have a high population density and need agriculture in their economies, but the UK seems to prefer saltmarsh habitats and collapsing cliffs.

  43. A different Simon
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Would seem that the amount actually spent on rivers approximates to the amount collected from leisure anglers such as myself for coarse fishing licenses .

    They do some very worthwhile work on rivers and pursue incidences of pollution .

    Parts of the public sector are deliberately meant to be inefficient and make work .

    Up to a point it’s better to have a British Citizen in subsidised work than out of work on benefits with the devastating effects on their children .

    I’m not defending the “jobs for the boys” for the like of Lord Smith or people like Lord Turner and Lord Hutton who go through a facade of a fake public review only to arrive at a pre-decided outcome which changes nothing .

    Can anybody tell me what Lord’s Smith , Turner or Hutton ever did to qualify themselves for a first class seat on the gravy train ?

    How many people working for the E.A. are not British Citizens but EU citizens ?

    For me the main problem is not the inefficiency but the creeping quangocracy – another form of government by civil servant rather than elected representative .

    How many European directives get implemented under the counter with no oversight from the H.O.C. ?

  44. Martin
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I notice that the usual parties are complaining about EU “rules”. Perhaps these parties should note that “Article 6 Paragraph 4 that human health or public safety has precedence over SSSI Habitat”.

    http://www.theinformationdaily.com/2014/01/07/the-dredging-of-rivers-will-protect-communities-from-flooding-damage
    makes interesting reading!

    • stred
      Posted February 8, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Interesting that the article ‘Nature Reserves to become national power stations’ suggests that water voles and bitterns together with the management of these areas produces large amounts of biomass and these can be made into briquettes . The bird society have worked this out. According to the DECC book Sustainable Energy, in order to sustain any significant area in energy, a very large land area is required. Hopefully, the Nature reserves are not going to expand to keep us all in briquettes for winter heating.

  45. Stevie
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Dear John
    LABOUR, CONSERVATIVES & LIBERALS,
    ALL say We’re “broke” and can’t help our own Seniors, Veterans, Orphans, Homeless, etc. In the past few years we have provided direct cash [£] aid to
    Haiti – £1.4 B,
    Hamas – £351 M,
    Pakistan – £2 B,
    Libya – £1.45 B,
    Egypt – £397 M,
    Mexico – £622 M,
    Russia – £380 M,
    Jordan – £463 M,
    Kenya – £816 M,
    Sudan – £870 M,
    Nigeria – £456 M,
    Uganda – £451 M,
    Congo – £359 M,
    Ethiopia – £981 M,
    South Africa – £566 M,
    Senegal – £698 M,
    Mozambique – £404 M,
    Zambia – £331 M,
    Kazakhstan – £304 M,
    Iraq – £1.08 B,
    Tanzania – £554 M,
    giving them a total of literally Billions of Pounds – and the majority of them
    still hate us !!!
    OOp’s I nearly forgot £1.3M to the Environment Agency to help to replace the river clearing equipment they sold off as scrap. It is little wonder that so many people in this country have little or no respect for the majority of politicians we elect to run the country.

  46. Sean Ickle
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Isn’t this whole discussion irrelevant, and this on purpose?
    Would it be possible for JR to state his position on climate change once and for all, instead of him talking on side topics?

    Reply I did set out my position on climate change on several occasions in the past, so I suggest you look it up in the archive of this site.

  47. Steve
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood

    It would be appreciated if you could pass your excellent article onto the Primeminister along with a note that he needs to send our hard earned aid budget to citizens of truly poor countries and not to countries who spend $50bn on the Winter Olympics, have space programs running at huge costs, have close to zero tax intake from their own richer Citizens, and countries whose GDP is larger than our own.

    Without some serious focus on reforming the waste in the public service arena the Primeminister runs the risk of UKIP storming the coming elections.

    Yours

    Steve

  48. Dave Abbot
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    As Mr Redwood suggested it seemed like a good idea to get the part time Baron Smith interviewed by the BBC. Unfortunately Mr. Paxman was extremely timid tonight on Newsnight. Perhaps the BBC we should have had a few flood victims in from Somerset to interview him? Shocking to hear the environment agency has 11,000 employees. Ship a few hundred out to the floods to fill sandbags!

  • 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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