It was good to hear from the Agency at last on the Today programme. It was perhaps unsurprising that its Chairman was unavailable to be interviewed, and left the job to his CEO. I seem to remember in my days as Chairman of companies an important part of the Chairman’s role was to field any difficult interviews with shareholders and public. This Chairman not only likes to stay on holiday during a crisis that his organisation has to handle, but then shirks the duty of explaining when he does get back to the office.
The CEO made one important statement that I support. He said clearly on more than one occasion that where policy has to choose between protecting people from flood, and protecting a natural habitat, they will choose to protect the people. The follow up question is why haven’t they followed this principle in more cases.
He also said that dredging can be helpful, though he declined to endorse it in all cases. He said they have undertaken £20m of dredging in the last two years. A substantial part of that is dredging the two main rivers of the Somerset levels after the dreadful floods there, following Ministerial insistence. They had not thought dredging suitable prior to the floods. The EA has always refused my requests for dredging the Loddon in my area, claiming it would not be helpful.
When Parliament returns I will table some more questions on the large EA budget and their priorities. There is no evidence that they do regard dredging as an important contributor to flood relief in most cases, and every evidence that they short change the dredging budget. Nor do they seem to do much weed removal and bank improvement in my areas, which is probably typical. They also need to examine the resilience of pumps and electricity sub stations, in the wake of the vulnerability of the York system.
The public expect considerably more flood relief for the huge sums the EA consumes each year. I will be writing to them again with my wish list for my area.