Don’t carry on dredging Environment Agency 3 Ministers 0

The Environment Agency has issued a topical paper. Entitled “River maintenance pilots. Findings Report” the EA this January tells us how and why the pilots to dredge, weed and cleanse 9 pilot areas have not worked well. This was something initiated by Ministers in the wake of the Somerset levels disaster, when Ministers required the Agency to do more to increase the capacity of rivers in areas prone to flooding.

The Report tells us these pilots have told farmers and landowners more of what the EA does do, and told them how to carry out work “in an environmentally sensitive way”. They say that some 61 km of river maintenance work has been done or is planned as a result.

However, they also report that in 2 areas no work was carried out. There were objections from landowners and farmers in pilot areas  because they were restricted to working on only 20% of the river on their land. Several reported that because there had been no dredging for so long there was too much silt to remove in a normal private sector maintenance  operation. Rules on methods of clearing and disposal of silt are worrying, complex  and expensive for landowners.

The Report demonstrates that the EA remains opposed to much dredging. The pilot areas were areas where they had discontinued dredging themselves, and where they did not plan to reinstate their dredging programmes. They then impeded the private sector’s wish to see these areas dredged by offering no cash and help, and or by issuing strict guidelines about how to do the work, and or by limiting the work to only one fifth of the affected river. As a result many farmers and other landowners concluded they could not do sufficient work to improve the position, were under some duress over how to do the work, and had a large inherited expensive and difficult task thanks to the EA’s abandoning dredging some time ago.

This was a masterly performance of Yes Minister. Elizabeth Truss should call them in and ask them to do better in future.

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102 Comments

  1. The Active Citizen
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    JR, have you heard anything about the meeting of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee on Wednesday? They questioned the EA’s Chairman and the Chief Exec about the recent floods and the underlying reasons.

    I had it on in the background (Parliamentlive.tv) and not once did I hear the words “EU Water Framework Directive” or even “EU”. The meeting lasted over three hours and it’s possible I blinked and missed these words, but I don’t think so.

    The overall questioning was so convivial that the Committee might as well have conducted the meeting with the EA at a nice riverside restaurant over lunch.

    I know a nice place on the Thames near Marlow where they used to do a lovely sea bass….

    Reply I did give facts and opinion to two members of the committee before the meeting as I wanted them to ask some good questions

    • Peter Davies
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Given the importance of this issue should you not be on this committee Jr?

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    The silt dredged up used to be put on the river banks as it is both the most convenient place, and helps build the bank up for extra defence.

    Apparently the EU has now effectively classed silt as toxic waste which means it must be taken off-site to be disposed of “safely”, presumably with the associated large fees and landfill taxes to be paid.

    • Dame Rita Webb
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      One of my childhood memories was of watching the dredgers at work outside the shipyards of the Tyne. I think it would be fair to say that whatever was brought up from the river bed in the 60’s would contain all sorts of nasties. However what proof do they have to say the river beds of Cumbria now are equally toxic? If they are why have they not put a warning out to anglers not eat their catch?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Indeed another back door tax, rendering the country even less competitive, encouraging inaction, hence the huge trade deficit and public borrowing requirements.

  3. Dame Rita Webb
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    No a bit firmer than that. She needs to put them on a performance plan of which a failure to complete that satisfactorily will enable them to take there boundless talents elsewhere, That is what happens to underperforming employees in the real world. Redundancy terms are to be on the legislative minimum only. Remember we are all in this together and its a flexible labour market for all.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Hear, hear Dame Rita. There are too many people working in the public sector who are not doing their jobs and not giving value for money. They are invariably in very well paid part time positions with good pensions at the end of it. They should be told their fortunes, given a chance to put it right and then booted out if they don’t do the job we expect of them. Too many ministers with common sense such as Owen Paterson are being sacked and we are being left with idiots.

  4. Richard1
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    This quango is clearly out of control. It has taken on a political mantra – dredging is bad – driven by EU environmental doctrine, and is now using its powers to obstruct the will of the elected government. The solution is not to call it in and tell it to do better but to close it. Some staff can be retained but transferred into a different structure where they will clearly execute the orders they are given.

    Again we see that state quangos become a law unto themselves – their ‘independence’ allows them to cloak themselves in righteousness driven by some ideaology and they feel empowered to defy and obfuscate and set their own agenda. It would be better to have such people either working directly as civil servants, or – better- contract the work out to private companies after competitive tender, where the contract would simply be terminated after performance like this.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      They can also usually find some expensive lawyers to find dig up some EU or UK laws to justify their inaction. We cannot do that as it is illegal. It will harm the newts. bats, moths or slow worms, it will be toxic waste and cannot be moved with endless test & vast expense or similar.

    • Mactheknife
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Its not just the EA, its all of the government departments and quangos (DECC, DEFRA etc) that seem to be beholden to the wishes of our EU masters whilst allowing our own citizens to suffer.
      You will not hear the PM or any other pro-EU politician mention EU Directives as a reason for recent flooding or green taxes in our energy bills, as they are clearly on an EU damage limitation exercise with a referendum on the way.

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Well either:- you dredge to increase the capacity of the rivers all the way to the sea, or you provide large flood holding areas along the relevant lengths of the rivers, or you accept that houses, offices, shops and farms will be flooded (and some bridges with be swept away) and you then adapt with that in mind.

    Which one does EA actually advocate – they seem to have done virtually nothing of substance.

    Still some good news, I will no longer have to listen to the irritating voice and usually wrong message of Robert Preston. Might we encourage Roger Harrabin the BBC warming alarmist to go too please?

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic

      Clearly we are both thinking along the same lines, that Dredging increases capacity, and you need to go all the way to the sea for it to work properly.

      With the “Toxic waste spoil” from the dredging you could perhaps reclaim some of the land lost to the sea, and kill two birds with one stone so to speak.

      Needless to say, of course you would need to build sea defences first, and then fill in behind, for those in the EA who perhaps do not understand this simple logic.

      • Dan H.
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        If the lowland rivers that need dredging were allowed to function naturally, then the result would not be productive farmland, but marshland with the river snaking through this area on a myriad small, ever-changing channels. As we do not and indeed cannot permit this, we need to think up a different way for the sediment transport function of these rivers to operate.

        The only way I can see for this to work is for sludge pumps to suck the silt out of the river beds, then spread it over the fields that the river would ordinarily inundate every winter. Essentially we are adapting a natural process to our own ends.

        We also then need to grasp the fact that river flow needs to be improved dramatically to cope with flooding events. Dredging improves capacity, but steepening the slope of a river also increases winter flow rates. The only way to do this is to construct barrages across river mouths, with lock gates that are normally open to permit the natural ebbing and flowing of tides, but which can be closed in times of high river flow to stop the high tide pushing water back up the river.

        Finally, artificial watercourses like the King’s Sedgemoor Drain in Somerset will likely need permanent pumps putting in place, if only to placate local residents.

        • alan jutson
          Posted January 8, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Dan

          I agree with your comments, but whilst the silt (and eroded bank material) is labeled as “Toxic Waste” they will never allow it to be spread.

          Thus we need to go back to square one and start a complete re-think.

          Perhaps some waste may be “toxic” in a very, very low level form because it has been contaminated in some way, so perhaps we need degrees of toxicity with uses being restricted, although this opens up another minefield of testing and compliance etc.

          That or cover the “toxic waste” with nice friendly waste.

        • stred
          Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          The EU document allows for spreading the sludge on adjecent land and banks- see DC’s comment in the earlier blog and mine during the Somerset floods. Other EU countries just take the directive to suit themselves. The UK seems to prefer to enforce the toxic waste nonesense and collect the tax. The blame lies at home.

          The chairman of the EA is a civil engineer who used to head Arup, one of the best engineering firms. He should know that channels can be deepened by dredging at pinch points in cities and that flood walls can be built higher and should be designed with a safety factor. Also that mechanical and electrical systems should be put in places which cannot be flooded. It is not necessary to dredge the whole river down to the sea where the gradient is steep enough to clear the built up areas. The flood plain can take excess lower down if farmers agree. Gates to hold back tides are normal engineering.

          The statements from the Agency reveal that they intend to stick to their back to nature policy and let housing and businesses flood. They should be sacked and held responsible for the damage, with deductions from pensions and redundancies made accordingly.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        The cost of moving this “toxic” waste is going to be high. It is already there after all, why is it so much worse on the banks than on the river beds? Why it is so much better put into some landfill site?

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        For those who are still confused (perhaps the bosses at EA) and who think dredging causes floods down stream, you of course should start at the sea and then work inland.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          Indeed perhaps they have not grasped this at the EU!

          It is hardly a difficult concept.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

            at the EA or indeed the EU.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Yes please to Roger Harrabin. He’s another one who hasn’t really done his homework and just goes along with the new religion.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        If you want a job at the BBC it seems you have to believe in:

        Magic money tree economics, the ECHR, “diversity”, open door non-selective immigration, more and more EU, legal restrictions on free speech, fake “equality”, bloated government, trains/buses good cars/lorries bad, over regulation of everything, ever more EU, ever more taxes and the global warming catastrophe religion and read the Guardian and New Statesman.

    • hefner
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      LL, nobody has ever forced you to listen to Robert Peston, to Roger Harrabin or to Radio4. If you ever did it, it was of your own foolish volition. You are the only culprit. Accept it instead of always finding another person to blame. You’re a poor soul, indeed.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

        Well when I am driving around there is only really radio 3 and 4 that are bearable. Radio three gets more like classic FM every day and they talk far too much so I tend to end up on 4. Anyway it is interesting to listen and analyse the endless lunacy & biases of the BBC. Woman’s hour and Thought for the Day are always hilariously funny. With their half baked PC opinions and endless lunacy.

        It is always fun to guess the line the BBC will take on any topical issue. Alas it is always rather too predictable.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    This holds extreme interest for me at the moment because I live in the Fens where there are two brilliant schemes, The Ouse Washes Land Development Partnership and the Nene Valley organisations (http://www.riverneneregionalpark.org/projects/), are busy making England Greener.
    Dredging, I think it is fair to say, falls way down the list of priorities.
    This, of course, is in line with the 2000 EU Water Directive and the gold plating which has made dredging very difficult. http://www.aina.org.uk/docs/good%20practice%20guides/AINA_%20WDGMay2013v5.pdf
    Massive new bureaucracies have been set up to bring all this about and their staff costs exceed the work done by some margin.

  7. Ben Kelly
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the update Mr Redwood. Have you emailed a copy of this blog to the Environment Secretary and the Prime Minister with a request for a response?

    Reply Yes to Ms Truss

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Reply – Reply

      Perhaps you should send her copies of the responses you have had as well, as I doubt she will tune in.

  8. sm
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid my first gut reaction to this piece was that Ms Truss should sack the lot of them.

    • ian wragg
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Truss should go and a proper qualified person put in charge.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        So few in parliament have any grasp of science, numeracy or even basic logic perhaps why they seek jobs in politics. (Either that or they just pretend not to have any grasp of it – though some do seem good at getting their large expenses claims computed).

        Peter Lilley is about the only one I can think of who seems rational, and has a Cambridge Natural Sciences degree. Ms Truss is another PPE person alas. Though she occasionally seems slightly brighter than most MPs to me. I also see Ms Truss was President of Oxford University Liberal Democrats so right up Cameron’s street politically.

      • Bob
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        @ian wragg

        “Truss should go and a proper qualified person put in charge.”

        I seem to remember she was selected from an all women short list.

        Positive discrimination in action.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 9, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

          All woman lists are just blatant anti-male discrimination and a good way to ensure you are rather unlikely to get the best person for the job. How can they be anything else?

  9. agricola
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Obviously yesterdays contribution was not PC enough for you. Having read it to my secretary and received only approval I am at a loss as to why. You published longer and the usual serials so I am perplexed.

    Sack the management of the EA and employ half a dozen Dutch civil engineers who have just retired from their water management organisation.

    Ignore the directives that come out of Brussels and revert to water management rather than their green rubbish.

    Retain the workforce who I am sure would like to get on with the job and let the Dutch direct them.

    Re name the EA the Ministry of Environmental Management and make the Minister directly responsible as they were prior the invention of responsibility cut outs called quangoes.

  10. Lifelogic
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    It seems that even the new alcohol guidelines now have to be politically correct and even gender neutral. Men are clearly rather larger on average than women, so the same amount of alcohol give a rather lower concentration of alcohol in mens bodies. Do they really have any evidence that men react worse to lower concentrations than women it seems rather unlikely?

    Or as I suspect are they taking complete unscientific nonsense and being insufferably PC? If so this rather detracts from all the rest of the “expert” advice we get from government.

    • ian wragg
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      They spent years vilifying smokers. Job done, now lets attack the drinkers.
      Please John can you give us the stats on the units of subsidised alcohol sold in Westminsters bars and the value and quantity of alcohol bought by various government departments for entertaining.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Indeed that would be rather interesting. It will be do as we say not as we do I rather suspect.

        I tend to get through about three bottles of red wine over the course of a week. But most people I know do seem to drink rather more than this, making me feel relatively abstemious.

        As John Mortimer put it:

        “There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward.”

        • ian wragg
          Posted January 8, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          If you don’t drink, you don’t live longer, it just seems longer……

          • turbo terrier
            Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

            Ian Wragg

            The notice above our kitchen door is:

            Life is too short to drink cheap wine.

            Cannot really argue with that

        • alan jutson
          Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps the MP’s should increase the bar prices in the HOC given that the basis being proposed is that it will preserve their health.

          Some chance.

          Do as I say, not as I do, springs to mind !

      • Dame Rita Webb
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

          Freedom of information has never been a strong point for Bercow rather the reverse.

    • stred
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      It seems that when we want to get the maximum nanny factor or general bungling, appoint an old Dame. We had for the Border Farce, now HMRC has her for the no argument/no phone answer/cough up or we take it from your bank service. We had one for the EA deciding to turn the Somerset levels into a bird sanctuary. Now we have one to tell us what to drink. The men in similar positions tended to be old women too, but not up to scratch.

      The latest advice depends on a new study and does not give overall comparisons of life expectancy in comparison. The absolute figures are not too worrying. A few years ago the Danes did a study which showed that men who drank five pints of beer a day lived on average as long as teetotallers, but those who drank two pints lived longer. re Thorkild Thoresen. I try to keep my RDA to two in my old age.

      It would be interseting to know whether nannies like these (people ed) actually drive people to drink or depression and shorten lifespans. They used to finish up in beer barrels rolling down hills.

      • stred
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Just finished lunch and notice that Dover port wants to dredge a sank bank in order to expand the port. The Kent conservationists are already on the BBC complaining that it will spoil the habitat for mussels.

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        If we all stopped drinking to protect our health, thousands would be put out of work, and George will need to put some other Taxes up to make good the bigger shortfall against Government expenditure.

        Its the law of unintended consequences.

      • stred
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Forgot to mention Dame Slingo of Inundation, who heads the Met Office BS Department. The EA has spent a lot of time producing exellent maps, which can be googled with the inundation word.

        Zooming on Carlisle, the central city areas are coloured dark blue for high risk and light blue for medium. The map also shows that the river narrows to the west along a bank and is a short distance to the sea. Has any part of the river in this area been dredged and if not, why not?

  11. MIke Stallard
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Here in the Fens, we have two new agencies to supervise and improve our two rivers – the Nene and the Ouse. Their new bureaucracy is paid, in one case £300,000 a year in salaries while river improvement is allocated only £200,000 a year. Both organisations are quite frank: they are there first and foremost to promote the ecology of the rivers.
    Dredging is now pretty well impossible owing to the amount of red tape involved. This is partly due to the EU Water Directive of 2000, although that has been gold plated by the EEA.
    I sit here and watch as place after place gets flooded and people, including the BBC, spout stuff which is completely irrelevant. The first duty of government is to protect its electors. The current government is failing in that.
    Us next?

  12. alan jutson
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    What a surprise.

    So the EA has given instructions to dredge to private land owners, but only within their own rules, and only for limited lengths, and it has failed.
    Well what a surprise.!

    Just like asking the Taliban about setting the rules of engagement for our armed services, and finding you cannot win against them.

    A family member has recently purchased an equestrian property which has some low laying land, which has a stream running through it, which fed a fishing lake, the stream was overgrown and silted up after years of neglect, leading to some waterlogged fields.

    A few months ago they dredged the whole length of the stream which runs on that land, water now flows more quickly into the lake (which has not overflowed) as the lake overflows were already clear, and this has helped drain their previous water logged land.

    Thus draining water from one area is not a problem, if areas further down are also clear.

    Lesson, you have to clear complete lengths of the water course for the dredging system to work.

    Please do not let politicians be convinced by this so called failed report nonsense John.

    Of course if you want to slow down water flow, then you put obstacles in the way, to hold it back.
    Example locks on a canal.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      There was a very good example of what you are talking about on the TV the other night. I think it was somewhere in Yorkshire but not sure now. They built various damns etc to slow the river in places and it has worked. Common sense and applied logic again.

    • Paul Cohen
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      As the Simpsons would say – DOH!

  13. Ian wragg
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Just following EU orders guv….. Start with a required result and write a report to confirm this review.
    As Lloyd frequently says. Many public service personnel are employed to actively disrupt life making absolutely no positive contribution whatsoever.
    Next question, what are you doing about it. What about some real qualified experts to recommend a course of action.
    Wildlife is far more important than peoples property.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      They care not what they do either positive or negative, so long as they are paid and pensioned well and the work is pleasant and not too demanding for them. Such is the state sector in general.

      They would not want it to disrupt their trips to Barbados and the likes too often.

  14. Ian wragg
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Life logic not Lloyd.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    This approach is sometimes called paralysis by analysis. It is a long established tactic used in bureaucratic organisations to resist change or defend an existing policy. The problem usually can only be overcome by changing the policy and, more often than not, the executives in charge. Elizabeth Truss calling them in and asking them to do better is unlikely to be enough to get the changes you righly desire.

  16. Graham Wood
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    JR Your further comment and the dire flooding situation in so many parts of the UK illustrate yet again the incompetence of the EA to undertake its statutory requirement to effectively manage our river systems to minimise or to prevent the flooding we have witnessed.
    From your earlier reports and Owen Paterson’s revelations on the reasons why the Somerset Levels flooding took place it is also clear that the EA’s lack of, or ineffective, dredging policy is driven and constrained by the two EU directives – the Water Frameworks Directive and the Habitats Directive.
    Both fail spectacularly to achieve the urgent flood prevention damage needed over the past few weeks, or indeed to effectively function in the future unless and until these are abandoned.
    The main question now is whether Mr Cameron will insist that both directives as policy are abandoned as far as the UK is concerned and this demand must be presented to the EU Commission in the coming negotiation discussions.
    It must be the clear duty of environment ministers and indeed a cross section of MPs in all the political parties to insist on this being raised with the Commission as a top priority.
    Anything less will be a betrayal of all those thousands of people, businesses, and whole communities which have suffered in the floods due to government complacency on this issue and the craven subservience displayed by Mr Cameron which his callous “remain in the EU” policy is having. The directives must go.

  17. Shieldsman
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Is the Environment Agency fit for purpose and is the Government through DEFRA devoting sufficient resources of money and expertise to flood control?

    I came across an Environment Agency blog- Creating a better place
    10 years on from the Cumbrian and Carlisle Floods of 2005, written by Mike Harper and published on 8 January 2015
    In it he says “I joined the Environment Agency in February 2005, right after the Carlisle and Cumbria Floods and spent most of the next 5 years working on the design and construction of the £38m improvements to the flood defences in Carlisle”.
    The blog shows a photograph of Warwick Road and Surrounding flooded area in Carlisle 9th January 2005
    In conclusion he says “The flood defences were tested again in June 2012 and May 2013, preventing in excess of £180m of flood damage to the city. So you can see why this has been such a challenging, but fulfilling time to work for the Environment Agency and I continue to look forward to the challenges that my work will throw at me”.

    The flood defences failed in December 2015 and on the internet you can view photographs of a once again flooded Carlisle. What will be the cost of flood damage be this time?

    We even have Lord Deben (Globe International) calling for some of the Foreign Aid budget to be spent at home on what he describes adaptation.

  18. William Long
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I should have thought that the chances of Lizz Truss doing anything so controversial as calling anyone in and telling them to do better were less than zero. After all, was she not appointed solely to avoid any sort of controversy in the Green world after Owen Paterson had shown a determination to inject reality into the DECC and been sacked for it?

  19. Anonymous
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    We don’t hear much in the broadcast media about dredging being the cause of the flooding.

    Generally everything can be blamed on two things according to the BBC et al :

    – Man made global warming

    – An ageing population

    Anyone who challenges these orthodoxies is branded politically incorrect or ignorant.

    Political correctness is the true evil in our society, not those who fall foul of it through tactlessness.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Indeed being PC it is usually just a euphemism for not telling the truth or lying.

  20. Antisthenes
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I am from the government and I am here to help. The most feared sentence in the English language. I paraphrase Ronald Reagan I believe. How true those words are and certainly the EA is proving it. I note the satisfaction on the faces of bureaucrats when they outwit others who attempt to inject common sense and a degree of flexibility into solving problems. When their idea of what should be done is based on rigid rules and regulations that have been formulated by the we know what is best brigade of so called experts. Experts not in logic or rational thinking but in furthering their agenda and feathering their own nest.

    The way we govern ourselves is deeply flawed. First of all there is too much of it and it has far too much power over us. It is not truly democratic as it can and does override the wishes of the people and at the same time put government’s own needs before the public’s. There are many other flaws many being there because of building multiple layers of it. The EU being the biggest example and then there all the quangos. Government should be there to serve not to be self serving and I see no attempt to make that happen. One day it may but not before the full magnitude of what the monster we have and are building has effected us badly enough and it will will we act to change it.

  21. FrankH
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    “This was a masterly performance of Yes Minister. Elizabeth Truss should call them in and ask them to do better in future.”

    She’s in charge, isn’t she. She’s already asked them, this time she should tell them.

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      You can’t “tell” employees what to do anymore ,especially in the public sector,it’s now classed as bullying – you can only ask nicely!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

        Indeed, nor can you ever fire them no matter how hopeless, it seems.

  22. Bert Young
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I re-iterate my previous comment in the post a few days ago – sack the boss of the EA and create a new organisation in the private sector ( Agricola I would support the appointment of the Dutchmen you referred to ). This new organisation would be charged to be only answerable to the British Government ; Brussels would not be allowed to dictate or to interfere in any way .

    • Graham Wood
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      BY Fully agree, but notwithstanding believe it is imperative that Mr. Cameron needs publicly and fully to confront the EU Commission on the damaging EU directives in his coming negotiations – particularly but not only, for the flooded victims of the recent floods.
      There is no reason why this should not be a priority if as he claims he wants a “reformed” EU.
      Perhaps JR and other Eurosceptic MPs will press this upon DC at the earliest opportunity?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      But Parliament has agreed through its European Communities Act 1972 that Brussels may interfere, and nobody including the government and Parliament and the courts in the UK may stop them interfering, and that will remain the case unless and until Parliament passes another Act saying otherwise.

  23. Colin Hart
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Trouble is Liz Truss is not in charge. The EA is an ‘independent’ agency implementing, and usually gold-plating, EU directives.

    To get policy under any sort of sensible control:

    Leave the you know what.

    Make the Secretary of State responsible for both policy and implementation.

    Make the Secretary of State accountable to Parliament.

    Bring back Owen Patterson.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Why exactly did Cameron sack one of his very few good ministers?

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        “……Sack one of his few good ministers”

        Because he thought he was not any good I assume.

        or

        Perhaps because he may have had different thoughts about the EU

      • Martyn G
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        Because he was very good and might thus have shown up Mr C and many others on the green blob lobby side as being very silly indeed. In short, he was a threat with the potential to expose reality and make others look daft.
        Report on the Thames this evening, levels dropping a little, some weirs above Benson shut down a few gates but at Benson all of the 7 narrow channel marking buoys have now been swept away, the silt bank is building nicely though no one will know quite where it is until Spring and the downstream laybys for boats are under water. I shall be very interested to see how it gets sorted without dredging before the boating season starts this year!

  24. majorfrustration
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Quangos are just structures to enable Government to pass the buck and distance ministers from making difficult decisions. If as suggested above the EU directives contribute to the EA failure then I only hope somebody in the MSM picks up on this – good ammunition for Britexit

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Indeed we can certainly manage the flooding far better after a brexit. Did John Major promise not promise us subsidiarity? So why has the EU any say at all in UK river management or was he lying again?

  25. Ken Moore
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I was going to look into this paper, consider the facts but being mindful of John Redwood’s enthusiasm for political correctness it’s perhaps unwise.
    So I will venture into JR’s modern politics of kindness and utopian visions. I heard his speech on the Eu referendum to the Bruges group was well received. He appealed for the emphasis to be shifted away from immigration so as not to frighten the voters with any nasty non PC talk. I’m sure Mr Carswell was most pleased by this.

    So I shall congratulate the EA for it’s excellent and wise management. I’m sure any past failings can be attributed to the low self esteem of the workplace caused by the nasty ‘right wing press’. I do not wish to further stigmatise this organisation by making ‘villains’ of this particular group or making ‘sweeping criticisms’.

    The flooding of homes was unfortunate but this has to be balanced by the excellent work the Ea does in recruiting staff from a diverse cross section of the community. Most of the problems were probably caused by Thatcher’s savage cuts in the 80’s.

    Reply Silly irony distorting what I am saying. I want to win the referendum. Our bets lines are “Take back control” and “Get our money back”.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      The best lines are:

      Take back control
      Get our money back
      Restore our democracy
      Restore selective immigration (instead of totally un-selective open door immigration)
      There is no status quo option, it is a fast ahead to a single EU country (and the end of democracy in the UK) or get out.
      Be able to catch a sea bass if and when you want to.
      Halve the price of electricity
      Trade more freely with the whole World
      Get your nice large blue passport back.

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        The best line of all.

        If the EU is not in control of the UK, then why are we having to ask them to get it back !

      • Ken Moore
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        There is no status quo option, it is a fast ahead to a single EU country (and the end of democracy in the UK) or get out.
        Quite so. On the status quo question I liked John Redwood’s line…
        ‘Wild ride to political union’

        I do think the campaign needs to be highly visual too to stick in peoples minds. These are some ideas I have….

        Picture of worried looking man in a suit wearing a rosette (an Mp). He is shrugging his shoulders looking apologetic and shifty. He’s behind his desk talking to a constituent.
        Caption ‘Sorry there is nothing I can do, it’s an Eu matter’.
        Take back control :Vote out on ……..

        Pictures of rusted fishing vessels in dry dock awaiting scrapping. Next to them is a downtrodden looking sea dog.
        Caption. ‘The Eu isn’t working . Take back control and vote out…..

        (Could also be used with a picture of Greeks waiting at cash machines).

        Picture of ‘fat cat’ type Euro commissioners (It could be MR Juncker and Mr Shultz) in front of a Euro flag engaging in some back slapping and general good natured banter.

        Caption: Do the British people or the Euro elite know what’s best for us?. Take back control and vote out!

        Picture of the map of England on calm waters but these are choppier ahead turning to white water. In the foreground are sketchy suited figures wearing Eu rosettes .

        Caption: These politicians sold your country down the river. Take back control and vote out!

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 9, 2016 at 7:40 am | Permalink

          All sound good ideas to me.

          • Ken Moore
            Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

            unchecked link ed

            I do think it contains some powerful ideas – the parallels between the old Soviet Union and the Eu are striking. It’s for others to put this message across in a way that has the broadest possible appeal.

            The notion that the Eu is new, modern and the way forward really needs to be shot to pieces.

            Perhaps the campaign could force attention of the prison like nature of the Eu project by painting an image of Britain behind the bars of the Eu fortress perhaps.

    • Ken Moore
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Reply Silly irony distorting what I am saying. I want to win the referendum. Our bets lines are “Take back control” and “Get our money back”.

      The silliness comes from following PC logic.
      If we must moderate our language and thoughts towards one group , shouldn’t the same standards apply to everyone else?.
      Or is a religion, the extremist version of which supports the murder of non believers, a more’ vulnerable’ group than the people that work for the EA ?.
      Are they therefore more worthy of protection from free speech?. Yes it seems.

      ‘Take back control’ and ‘Get our money back’ are okay but why ignore the No 1 concern of the British people ?. ‘Sustainable and fair immigration ‘?

      The OUT side need a ‘Labour isn’t working’ type message that will resonate.

      Migration Watch commissioned a survey in 2014 and found ‘77% of people want immigration reduced’. And that was before recent events around Calais and Cologne. The elite are desperate to cover up the mess around our borders and now the OUT campaign it seems are handing them a free pass.

      Reply I am arguing against the use of abusive language and unfair generalisation against any group.
      The polling shows that the issue of our money resonates best with voters on the referendum issue. People who are most worried about migration have already decided to vote for Out.

      • Ken Moore
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        Reply I am arguing against the use of abusive language and unfair generalisation against any group.
        The polling shows that the issue of our money resonates best with voters on the referendum issue. People who are most worried about migration have already decided to vote for Out’.

        That is the pretext behind political correctness but sadly it has gone much further than that. That’s just the motherhood and apple pie stuff.
        I had hoped you would have had a more incisive view on how PC has shaped politics throughout your career and why we have retreated from reason.

        http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/249#1

        ‘A February 2014 poll conducted by YouGov for Channel 5 found that 65% of respondents were worried about the level of immigration to the UK, while 31% were not worried and 4% didn’t know.

        That is 65% that were worried about immigration even before the situation became more serious. That’s enough for a majority so I can’t follow your logic in not putting immigration control near the top of the agenda.

        Talking too much about money is just going to get bogged down in arguments about net and gross figures rather than the pound in the peoples pocket. Most of the money shovelled into the Eu is taken from Mr Osborne’s magic money tress anyway so the man in the street doesn’t really feel the pain.

        Highlighting the benefits of restoring democracy and fixing the long running headache of unsustainable population increases are the priorities in my view.

  26. ian
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Like I said, should be done away with. If the people do not take back control of their parliament the suffering will worsen in all areas for working people, do not look to parliament to do something because you are on your own, if you do not do it, it will not get done.
    Same mind set in councils and don’t thing that their mind set will change if you come out of the EU, you will have change the people who run things.

  27. Iain Gill
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Well after the dept of health has reduced the recommended drink limits significantly below the limits used by equivalent depts in the USA, France, and most of the developed world, and blamed health problems on us the public, I suggest they look a bit closer to home and suggest somebody please tell them THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH HEALTH IN THE UK IS THE CRAP NHS BEING UNFIT FOR PURPOSE AND BEING RUN TOP DOWN AND COMPLETELY UNRESPONSIVE TO PATIENTS

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. Let people pay and accept the moral hazards of their actions.

      First they monopolize health care removing the moral hazard of different life style choices – through the “free” NHS, then they start telling everyone what they may eat, do or drink.

  28. Mercia
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    and had a large inherited expensive and difficult task thanks to the EA’s abandoning dredging some time ago.

    >
    John Redwood seems to be on the ball with this issue and I hope something comes of it.

  29. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic, I see that Cameron thinks he’s found a “fix” over restricting benefits.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12087830/Cameron-closing-in-on-four-years-deal-on-in-work-benefits-to-deter-EU-migrant-workers.html

    Of course there is absolutely no chance that the eurofederalist lawyers on the ECJ would say “Yes, you’re treating natives and migrants equally by depriving both of benefits, that’s OK, but then you’re compensating natives for that deprivation but you’re not compensating migrants, so that is still indirect discrimination against migrants.”

    It would take some years for the legislation to be put in place and for the complaints to go into the ECJ and for the ECJ to rule that in the absence of an express exemption for the UK enshrined in the EU treaties it was illegal indirect discrimination, and so it could be five or more years before the electorate found out that this plank of Cameron’s “renegotiation” was rotten from the start, and course by then it would be far too late. In fact it would too late the day after the referendum polling day.

    And even if he did get away with this “fix” it wouldn’t actually make any significant difference to the volume of immigration from poorer EU member states.

  30. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    “Rules on methods of clearing and disposal of silt are worrying, complex and expensive for landowners.”

    They also seem somewhat irrational, insofar as according to this:

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/waste-exemptions-disposing-of-waste

    you can get an exemption from the requirements of the Landfill Directive for dredging a watercourse and putting the dredgings on its banks, but you cannot then move the spoil anywhere else:

    “D1: key conditions

    The waste must be deposited as close as possible to where it was dredged from.

    The waste must be deposited either:

    on the bank of the waters from where it was dredged

    or on land next to the water it was dredged from (the dredgings must be removed from the waterway and deposited mechanically in one operation)

    This means that you can’t deposit onto a bank and then move it further away by the same or another machine.”

  31. The PrangWizard
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    These people at the EA could well have what some might call a sinister and potentially revengeful motive in knowingly making the rules for private landowners unworkable and impossible.

    The next time there is heavy rain and there is flooding they will say to those who are flooded, don’t blame us, and don’t criticise us, we asked for the work to be done and offered help but it was refused.

  32. petermartin2001
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a river flow or flood expert but I’d say that dredging of a river would speed up its flow so reducing the risk of flooding upstream and increasing the risk of flooding downstream.

    The choice therefore could well come down to whether to allow farmland to flood in the upper reaches of the catchment area or the towns and villages in the lower catchment area.

    Farmers naturally would like it not to be their land. But neither would the townspeople like it to be their houses and businesses.

    It’s a difficult one. So let’s have both sides of the argument please and not just call for more dredging as an easy fix for the problem.

    • Qubus
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Surely not, if you dredge the whole length of the river.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        No river has an infinite water carrying capacity. Sooner or later if there’s too much water in the system something has to give. The river will have to burst its banks somewhere.

        We all know water can’t travel uphill. So it is tempting for those who live in the upper catchment area to want to send as much water downhill as quickly as possible so that it then becomes someone else’s problem.

        The role of the EA and government is to take a wider view.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

          Well you do not need an infinite capacity, merely a sufficient capacity to cope with peaks, and water can indeed travel up hill one just needs a pump.

      • Martin
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        The problem with dredging rivers close to sea level is saline infiltration at time of low fresh water flow. This can damage farmers fields. If you dredge close to sea level you also encourage flooding by the sea at times of high tides and on shore gales as the sea can get up river more easily.

        Are regards the Environment Agency maybe parliament should revisit the law and ensure that all the exemptions allowed under the directive are applied with the same legal weight.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      It’s not a difficult one, the damage caused by the flooding of homes and business premises is far greater than any damage which might be caused by the flooding of fields, especially those which at one time were managed on the basis that they would be flooded most if not all winters.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Yes I tend to agree.

        That is the rational choice but sometimes its not just fields but smaller villages too which have to be deliberately flooded to protect larger towns if there is too much pressure on flood embankments.

        Rational but still not easy for anyone to do.

  33. lojolondon
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    John, I think the cure is far simpler than calling them in and talking to them. A P45 in the post is the way forward, I will offer to take on the role of Chairman of the EA myself, and I commit to spend £500m on dredging next year, and every year. Simples.

  34. Observer
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Make the Authority and its individual members responsible for bearing the insurance costs of repairing the damage they have created.

  35. william
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Abolish the bloated EA. Bring back local water boards.

  36. stred
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Today’s Private Eye reports that the new insurance deal for owners of property in flooded areas is called Flood Re and is chaired by an ex Tory minister, Mark Hoban, paid £150k for one day a week. The scheme is government backed, but relies on giving insurance companies permission to add a levy beween £10 and £50 on every household including those not affected by flooding. In effect this removes the incentive to prevent flooding paid by government and creates another tax.

    What a typical solution to suit the Treasury.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      So the government thinks it a good idea that I should pay more for my house insurance, even though we live on a hill well away from the river and are at no significant risk of flooding, so that the insurance companies can compensate less fortunate home owners elsewhere who have been flooded because of the failings of government policies, including its EU policies, and the willful incompetence of its agency responsible for preventing flooding. Great.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Indeed total insanity creating totally the wrong incentives and cross subsidies. Even worse in Scotland the SNP are doling out tax payers money to people flooded – tell them to insure, move or adapt their houses to accept flooding.

  37. Original Richard
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    The EU/EA are against dredging to protect aquatic animals such as mussels.

    But are not non-aquatic animals killed in large numbers when large areas of countryside are flooded ?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, though I do quite enjoy moules marinière, farcie or a la creme.

  38. Paul Cohen
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I watched the “grilling”of the EA executives, and was irritated by the apparent insoucient attitudes, no doubt confident that any serious criticism could be deflected by way of quoting EU dictats.

    Here (in Wokingham) for instance, we have the EA/Wokingham BC/ and Thames Water supposedly handling a drainage issue alongside the rail line , where a maintenance regime has been agreed – however this is frequently compromised. Last year for instance EA turned up to clear a main gulley but were (surprise, surprise) without the key to unlock the gate to give them access to NR land. The situation needs constant monitoring and chasing up.

  39. Peter Drummond
    Posted January 10, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    JR.
    I have read quite a few of the comments above but I believe that, if one looks beyond poor and unqualified leadership (Chris Smith?). I think one of the big problems is that the EA is a woefully poor tasked organisation; e.g. effective flood defences are not always compatible with more esoteric environmental issues and so one has to suffer and we know what has suffered. Flood defence should be handled by a separate department not answerable to the EA.

    The ‘Inside the Environment Agency’ blog has gone ‘off air’ but if it was even 50% accurate, and there is little reason to believe it wasn’t 100% accurate, the EA is a blueprint for incompetence, laziness and wastefulness.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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