Some answers from the Environment Agency

I have received some answers to Parliamentary Questions concerning floods and the Environment Agency’s work and response.

The Agency is responsible for 22,600 miles of main river. In the year 2014/15 they dredged just 120 miles of this estate, or 0.5% of the rivers.

They spent a combined total of £45 million on cleaning, weeding and dredging rivers and river banks, out of their total budget of over £1 billion. That is under 5% of the budget.

The Environment Agency is responsible for 347 fixed pumping stations, including the Foss one in York which was deemed to be overwhelmed and led to the decision to flood parts of the city. The Agency did not put in additional mobile pumps, on the grounds that they judged there was too much water to shift using such devices.

The Agency itself has 245 mobile pumps. Along with other emergency services there were 425 mobile pumps available in December 2015 to deal with floods. 42 of these pumps were sent to the north of England to assist with the additional rainfall and river flows there.

The picture which emerges is of an Agency reluctant to undertake conventional maintenance and cleansing of rivers. There are also questions to be asked about the availability and the use of pumps, and how they co-ordinate with other emergency and public protection services to fly pumps in at short notice to places under stress.


  1. Lifelogic
    January 15, 2016

    Indeed like most employees, when left to their own devices, they do the bits if the job they enjoy and avoid getting their hands dirty. The legal framework they operate under also does nor help. The endless climate alarmism from the BBC, Roger Harrabin, the government, the absurd Met office and the likes gives them endless excuses – unpresidented rainfall they claim but this is simply not true.

    It is however only the Government that has any interest in ensuring they do what they can to minimise flooding damage efficiently. Given the way they are set up and human nature they were bound to fail. The government is therefore to blame as they put in place this structure and legal framework that was, like the NHS, the roads programme and much else certain to fail, and fail they certainly did, at huge damage to the economy.

  2. Dame Rita Webb
    January 15, 2016

    JR having read your final para and the CV of Dilley’s replacement, how can the government have her removed as quickly as possible before people are flooded out again and more taxpayers money is wasted on designer office furniture?

    1. Timaction
      January 15, 2016

      The new appointment was wholly predictable and a reflection of the green brigade. Traditional husbandry by dredging and clearing of rivers worked for centuries. Another disaster is going to happen repeatedly until this organisation has root and branch reform and ignores the EU directive. It clearly has an institutional failure supporting the EU and non existent climate change. Mr Booker cleared up the stats on rainfall in the Telegraph last week to show the propagandist’s at the Met Office were factually and deliberately inaccurate in their claims of record rainfall in England. There have been a large number of higher rain events than the last and before industrialisation. Then they used to dredge the rivers. Perhaps the cows were responsible.
      Are the Government ever going to get a grip of this rogue agency or can you please reduce my taxes? I’m fed up with reading the regular failing of just about any Government agency or quango!

  3. The Active Citizen
    January 15, 2016

    Thank you for questioning the EA and for the useful feedback JR. I agree 100% with your final paragraph. You uncovered some astonishing information and I hope you’re now going to promote this to the media.

    Overnight, Guido Fawkes is reporting that a replacement has been found for the outgoing EA Chairman Mr Dilley. They say:

    “His successor is one Emma Howard Boyd, former deputy Chairman of the agency. Unlike Sir Philip, who comes from an engineering background, Emma specialises in “corporate social responsibility”, and serves as a director as of a green investment vehicle, in addition to working in varying capacities for a number of environmental NGOs.”

    If this story is true, I despair, I really do. I’m sure Ms Boyd is a nice person, and that she’s kind to children and animals, but for heaven’s sake. I hate to prejudge people but with a new Chairman of that background it sounds like we’re in for another 10 more years of incompetence and eco-drivel.

    Is it too late to stop this seemingly-appalling appointment. Who on earth approved it? Did the incompetent Ms Truss have the final say?

    1. Mitchel
      January 15, 2016

      Indeed.It sounds a lot more Common Purpose than common sense.

    2. Mark
      January 16, 2016

      Emma Howard Boyd has been Deputy Chair since 2009. While she may be in the running to take the Chairman’s role, I think her appointment at this stage is merely an interim one. I think it would make sense to appoint a different person who hasn’t been captured by the organisation, and perhaps also to call an end to her time at the EA, allowing a thorough clearout at board level. It might make good sense to try to recruit someone from the Rijkswaterstaat – the Dutch seem to know how to do these things rather better.

  4. David Thompson
    January 15, 2016

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown of how the agency spends its £1.25 Billion in more detail.

    1. alan jutson
      January 15, 2016

      David T

      I have to say it seems like a very poor return for an organisation which has 10,000 employees, with a budget of over a £1,250,000,000.

      Its as if they are all sleep walking or day dreaming, rather than actually working.

      Given the figures you have just outlined, there would seem to be no urgency at all to anything, let alone dealing with a disaster area.

      From the pitiful amount of dredging and weed clearance you outline, there seems to be absolutely no real scale to any planned maintenance at all.

      Perhaps the frogs, newts, and fish are happy, but what about the people who pay for it all.

      Yet another useless Quango which only seems to serve itself, rather than the community at large.

      I see the recently appointed (last week) new boss, has absolutely no engineering/ construction qualifications or practical experience at all.

      Thus we have yet again the possibility of the blind leading the blind.

      Perhaps another person to go on the honours list in a few years time.

      No wonder David Bowie refused to join the Club.

  5. Edward.
    January 15, 2016

    The picture which emerges is of an Agency reluctant to undertake conventional maintenance and cleansing of rivers.

    Can the merest whiff of caustic derision be sensed in that statement?

    I’ll posit another specific example but it applies across all riverine catchment systems in the UK.

    In certain parts of the lower Thames it is reckoned/observed that since the mid Eighties, sediment carried down by the river in suspension and via saltation, thus silting up the bed of the river has raised the level by ± 5 – 10′ ~ 1.5 – 3 metres (for the Beeb and EA students).
    Now then, what I want to know is this, what is the point of spending vast sums of money by raising the height of embankments and levees* if, if you are not lowering (allowing the constant uplift through silting) the bed of the river – it makes no sense whatsoever and not least, because it also transfers the spate discharge problems to lower reaches of the river system.

  6. Jerry
    January 15, 2016

    “The picture which emerges is of an Agency is of…”

    Utter incompetent, no other words for it, sadly.

    The sad case that is the Environment Agency just proves that old adage, if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it, which is precisely what the Tory government tried to do back in 1995 when they decided that Local Authorities etc. were not best placed to know what the local flood prevention needs are, even though much of their knowledge had been built up over centuries… Poetic justice that it it is a Tory government who is reaping the whirlwind of criticisms, along with the incompetent EA, but will the government do the right thing – scrap the EA- unlikely as that would mean admitting to getting it wrong back in 1995.

    1. Ted Monbiot
      January 15, 2016

      No bias showing there Jerry!
      Bizarrely managing to blame the Tories for the current failures of the Environment Agency by saying back in 1995 they paved the way for it by amending the Environmental Protection Act of 1990.
      Which was amended again in 2005.

      The current failure is a combination of the 13 years of green minded, non intervention policy direction given to it from 1997 onwards by the Labour Government, added to the effects of green directives and legislation from the EU post 1996 and the effects of Millibands Climate Change Act.
      The political policy was set to one of non intervention in nature.
      And the EA followed this carefully in their culture and actions.

      Bear in mind they only opened their first offices with a few recruits in April 1996. They were encouraged, generously funded and directed in the first 14 years by a Labour administration after 1997 for the next 13 years.
      By the end of these 13 years they had grown to employing thousands and the die was set.
      But I will give you a few marks for your effort to try to blame the Tories.
      You ought to try for one of the many well paid Labour spin doctor jobs.

      1. Jerry
        January 15, 2016

        @Ted Monbiot; You do have a strange idea that because something, that would have not otherwise existed, was modified by others in 2005 (when, under the Tory lead coalition or before?) that no blame lies with those who created the said Agency in the first place.

        You are mixing up cause and effect, a bit like blaming the alcoholic for the invention of Gin, but with no alcohol beverages there would be no alcoholics…

        Oh and the EA was already failing by 2001 (most notably in 1998 and 2000), so any amendments made in 2005 are largely, but not entirely, irrelevant to the structures and cultures found by 2005 within the EA.

        Also the “green crap” -as Mr Lifelogic might say- that you refer to had already started by 1997, in fact it was effecting government policies well before John Major even became Tory leader and PM – remember so called “acid rain”, remember when climate science thought we world was headed for a global ice age, because global temperatures were apparently falling and about to fall off a cliff. But no sooner had that scare been nailed down and disposed for what it was the self-same climate science declared significant raises in global temperature and thus AGW.

        “Bear in mind they only opened their first offices with a few recruits in April 1996. “

        In the whole scheme of things an irrelevant date, a bit like arguing about when Microsoft was formally set up, rather than the date when Mr Gates and his team wrote the first lines of software code that became their first product.

        “They were encouraged, generously funded and directed in the first 14 years by a Labour administration after 1997 for the next 13 years.”

        Indeed (and something that would likely have happened had Mr Major won the GE of 1997) but then that should have been guarded against within the original 1995 Act, any grant and/or licence fee funded Agency will grow like topsy unless kept on a very tight and legal tether – something else the 1995 Acted failed to do.

        “You ought to try for one of the many well paid Labour spin doctor jobs.”

        Hardly!!! I am no spin doctor (unlike yourself Ted, by the looks of things, all criticisms must be challenged or at least spun), if Labour are to blame for something then that will be were I’ll lay the blame, but Labour was not in government in 1995 when the EA was set up.

        1. Edward2
          January 16, 2016

          Keep calm Jerry…
          I need to repeat that the EA did not start until April 1996
          It’s a fact as stated on their own website.
          Just months before Labour came to power and controlled them for the next 13 years.

          1. Ted Mombiot
            January 16, 2016

            Quite agree Edward2
            So the EA started in April 1996
            Therefore of their first 14 years in existence 13 of them were under Labour’s direction and funding.
            If they had been a success I can bet Jerry would have been saying how clever Labour had been in managing them.
            Bias indeed Jerry

          2. Jerry
            January 17, 2016

            @Edwartd2; “Just months before Labour came to power and controlled them for the next 13 years.”

            Actually 13 full months BEFORE the Blair government, the GE was in 1st May 1997, the EA – if we accept (for the debate only) the date they took over the responsibility as the date of creation was 1st April 1996. A year is a long time for poor supervision/regulation to allow equally poor operating cultures to become ingrained at HQ level that then peculate down the entire establishment as it increases its mandate and scope, even more when the Agency had in effect a blank cheque book of not sheet of paper.

            @Edward2; @Ted Mombiot; “Quite agree Edward2 So the EA started in April 1996”

            For goodness sake, the facts will not change how ever many times you two repeat your incorrect assertions (seemingly just to try and prove me wrong), go read the Environment Act, it is dated 19th July 1995. Note that I said Act, not Bill.

            @Ted Mombiot; “If they had been a success I can bet Jerry would have been saying how clever Labour had been in managing them. Bias indeed Jerry”

            Once again you prove that you failed to actually read what I said in my previous reply above, unless of course you are trying to accuse me of very non-parliamentary language.

            Should the Blair government have sorted out the EA, of course, but that doesn’t change the facts as to who created the EA, when and how.

          3. Edward2
            January 17, 2016

            The Environment Agency started work in April 1996.
            It’s on their website.
            In their first year they started with just a few staff and by the time Labour came to power the next year they employed under 250 staff
            Over the next 13 years under Labour they increased to 8000 staff.

          4. Jerry
            January 19, 2016

            @Edwared2; For goodness sake! How many times, go read the Act of Parliament, or just read the URL below, it is dated (19th July) 1995. That is the effective date of legal creation, but not always the date that day to day responsibility starts, nor the date of the first board meeting.

            Also, you seem to think that the EA, with its increasing mandate (as allowed for within the 1995 Act) could do all of it on just 250 staff, get real, it’s obvious that as the EA took over responsibilities there would either be staff transferred to them from the likes of the LAs etc. or have the need to recruit new staff where the LAs etc. redeployed their own staff into other roles. Anyway the problem is not the number of staff employed by the EA per se, not even their budget, but what those staff are allowed to and not do due to the inept policy decisions made upon high in Horizon House.


          5. Edward2
            January 19, 2016

            When did the actual work of the EA commence?
            The fact a piece of Parliamentary legislation was passed by the house of Commons is like saying a building was ready for occupation the same date as planning permission was granted.
            Come on Jerry I know you are pedantic but try and thing clearly.

  7. Antisthenes
    January 15, 2016

    Is this a case of the tail wagging the dog or government ministers not acting tough and competently enough. It appears to me that government departments and quangos are a law unto themselves and that not all ministers are in control but are being controlled “yes minister” style. Highlighting the dangers of centralised government by experts. Experts are there to serve not to act as masters but they are not willing to acknowledge that. Their mantra is we know best so do as your told.

    It proves that top down government is the worst type of government. That is a recipe for inaction or action that is woefully wrong and not in anyone’s interests but those at the top. Someday top down government will be seen to be the dreadful mistake it is and will be changed to one that is bottom up. The coming referendum gives us a chance to start that process by being rid of one the largest elements of top down dictatorial government the EU by leaving it.

  8. Patrick Lawless
    January 15, 2016

    Can we assume much of the 120 miles dredged was the ordered Somerset dredging?

    If so for all intent and purpose the EA has demonstrably abandoned dredging as a flood control measure.

    On what fact based evidence has a Government agency decided this?

    1. Lifelogic
      January 15, 2016

      Indeed that, I suspect, is about it.

  9. CDonald
    January 15, 2016

    You are to be congratulated in doggedly extracting this information. The appalling performance of the Environment Agency is stupefying.
    The resignation of the head of the Agency may be seen by some as courageous, ‘the man at the top taking responsibility’ and ‘falling on his sword’ and all that sort of stuff. I see it as an outright act of cowardice.
    Now there is no one to take ultimate responsibility for this debacle.
    This lot are not fit for purpose. A whole tranche of management need to be named, shamed and sacked and, after that , the Agency should be wound up and replaced with people who have the right priorities and can spend their resources (our money!) sensibly.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 15, 2016

      Was it a “resignation” or was there a “pay off” agreed, this is usually is the case in the state sector following any incompetence?

      Doubtless we will find out in the end.

  10. Ian wragg
    January 15, 2016

    As with most public agencies the EA is run for the sole benefit of the staff.
    EU directives give them the excuse to sit on their hands flooding homes whilst proclaiming they are saving the environment.
    The boss is sunning in the West Indies and the troops are busy at their computers surfing the net for Christmas presents.
    What does CMD intend to do about it.
    I see we can remove in work benefits for British staff to comply with German demands. Does Dave think we are that stupid.
    What with Gideons living wage there will be even more incentive for Europes unemployed to pitch up here.

    1. bigneil
      January 15, 2016

      “What does CMD intend to do about it?” – Nothing. He will carry on with the mass housebuilding program, which will cover up yet more land surface. Those houses ( for all the foreigners Ozzy needs to save the country’s economy) will need yet more roads, covering up yet more land surface – and the water will have nowhere to go.

  11. Mike Stallard
    January 15, 2016

    Mr Redwood, you ought to be very much congratulated on this piece of shocking research. From it everyone can see that dredging rivers and clearing rivers is not an important part of the work of the EA.
    And if rivers are not cleaned, bridges (Tadcaster) break up under the constant pounding of tree trunks, rivers flood for the first times and people lose their Christmas and their businesses.
    If anyone doubts that, please would they take a look at the priorities of just two local river boards – the Ouse Washes and the River Nene Regional Park. There is an awful lot of interest in sustainability, wetlands, wild life and so on and very little mention of river maintenance. That is scary for those of us who live in the Fens.
    Maddeningly I have lost the reference to the accounts for the Ouse Washes, but I seem to remember that a vast new bureaucracy has been set up which gobbles up more than anything spent on river maintenance. They are still advertising for non jobs.
    The flooding in the Somerset levels was deliberate as Christopher Booker proved. So did Owen Paterson. There is an awful smell of the same sort of corruption (yes, I mean it – taking money under false pretences) and stupidity hanging about in the north of the country too when the flooding begins.

    PS If I were to say that the way to reduce road accidents were to plant trees on the motorway and to stop all maintenance in order to slow the traffic down, I would be locked up. But that seems to be the policy with rivers at the moment.

    1. alan jutson
      January 15, 2016


      “…..Plant trees on the motorway to slow thing sup….”

      That very logic has been applied to the M4 Wokingham Junction 10 in the last couple of months.

      We did have two lanes on the A329M which both crosses and feeds the M4.
      We now have one lane, as the inside/slower lane has been covered completely in white cross hatch lines.

      Thus we now have Lorries having to move from the slow lane into the 70 mph overtaking lane, as it is the only lane now in use and available, but lorries are legally constrained to 56 mph.

      So many accidents and near misses since it was modified at a cost of millions and months of disruption.
      Traffic now held up more than before as flow and volume has been reduced due to this bottleneck approach.

      We do not have traffic management policy, we have a traffic obstruction policy.

      1. Jerry
        January 15, 2016

        @alan jutson; “So many accidents and near misses since it was modified at a cost of millions and months of disruption.”

        That says far more about the standard of driving than road design! Perhaps the idea was to slow the road up, sorry top say but there are far top many drivers that either think that the speed limit is the required speed and anyone under that speed is a danger (as indeed many car drovers do consider lorries and coaches in such a light) or that the speed limit is merely an advisory suggestion and not the maximum.

        “Traffic now held up more than before as flow and volume has been reduced due to this bottleneck approach.”

        Except, perhaps, the real obstruction is at the junctions, not being able to safely deal with two lanes of simultaneous traffic?

        “We do not have traffic management policy, we have a traffic obstruction policy.”

        Well it does feel like that at times, we have the same sort of apparently stupid highway planning around here, but sometimes creating congestion is the only way of managing traffic – of course the real solution for the A329M and many other roads (including my local A27) is to widen them and/or reconstruct conflicting junctions etc, but that costs real money whilst attracting both the Eco-warrior and NIMBYs in equal measure.

        1. Edward2
          January 16, 2016

          The point you miss Jerry is that the Highways Agency completed a project at great expense which aimed to reduce congestion and it failed to do that, whilst also reducing the level of safety compared to the old road design.
          I could give you examples near me of several similar project outcomes by the Highways Agency.

          1. Mark
            January 17, 2016

            Indeed – there have been several accidents in the short time since the junction was redesigned.

        2. alan jutson
          January 16, 2016

          Jerry, some of what you say may be true in some areas, but this junction has worked reasonably well with a 70 mph limit and two lanes for decades.

          Now they have messed about with it, it has become more dangerous, and more congested than before.

          I agree that locals who use the junction may well get used to it in time, and know in advance perhaps what lane they should be in, but that does not follow for first time user’s or strangers to the area.

          1. Jerry
            January 16, 2016

            @Edward2; The Highways Agency’s first consideration is safety, not congestion, I have yet to read anything to suggest this work was not related to safety.

            @alan jutson; “some of what you say may be true in some areas, but this junction has worked reasonably well with a 70 mph limit and two lanes for decades.”

            I have no doubt it has, but many are not taking any notice of the 70 mph limit on M classified roads any more, nor I doubt has the number of vehicles remained unchanged either. As I said to @Edward, not all modifications are carried out to reduce congestion, reducing the over all road speed by causing congestion can actually make a road/junction safer – as perverse as it might first appear.

            “Now they have messed about with it, it has become more dangerous, and more congested than before. [..//..] but that does not follow for first time user’s or strangers to the area.”

            Err, what a strange thing to say, but if true then those drivers are “driving without due care and attention” at the very least, and no design of road layout can cope with that!

          2. Edward2
            January 16, 2016

            Alan stated the changes reduced safety
            Is that not enough for you?

          3. Jerry
            January 17, 2016

            @Edward2; You really have not understood a word I’ve said, the only people who make roads unsafe are those who use them, not those who decide to paint white lines on them.

          4. Edward2
            January 17, 2016

            Absolute nonsense Jerry
            Road design is a key component in safety for drivers.
            Even the Highways Agency realises that.
            It is why they spend money on dangerous junctions to redesign them.

          5. Jerry
            January 19, 2016

            @Edward2; Was that meant to be a comment by you or a ‘quote’ from me?…

            “[..//..] It is why they spend money on dangerous junctions to redesign them.”

            Exactly, which is what I said!

            But then the unthinking drivers comes along who think that painted white lines should not apply to them, that the new speed limit should not apply to them, that the “No U-turn” or “No Right Turn signs don’t apply to them etc. I will say again, the only people who make roads unsafe are those who use them unthinkingly, carelessly or dangerously.

          6. Edward2
            January 19, 2016

            You have already been told by two posters who live locally that the costly changes reduced safety.
            How much more do you need as someone who does not even know the area to accept what is said?
            Taking contrary to new levels Jerry

      2. Lifelogic
        January 15, 2016

        Indeed many junctions and slip roads have such lanes marked off with lines in this this way. They built two and three lanes at great expense then just waste one of them.

        It seems pointless congestion it their actual aim.

      3. stred
        January 16, 2016

        My neighbours are taxi drivers in London. They tell me that the only decent road out of or into central London from the East is to be closed down to one lane approaching the Tower, from four originally. This is for the cycle Superhighway. Traffic crossing the Thames cannot turn right and and join Upper Thames St and has to go through the City, passing four difficult junctions, taking over an hour and creating pollution.

        I had to take a patient by car into Whitechapel for treatment, as there is no lift in the tube station to the main hospital. There is also no parking. Mile End road is so full of environmental roadworks, that the first place I could stop was a superstore in Stratford.

        TFL must have someone like the new head of the EA to keep the public happy, as they spend a lot on PR on LBC telling taxi drivers how My Journey is becoming safer and better, while they scream at the radio.
        I suppose then the commercial station will not want to be rude to a customer, and the BBC is under control of the ecos already.

  12. alte fritz
    January 15, 2016

    Fossgate in York is home to numerous small businesses. They are not the sort to have a big infrastructure to deal with floods. All depends on the resilience of the owners and their (few) employees. If businesses there fail, the Environment Agency has even more to answer for.

    1. Graham Wood
      January 15, 2016

      Alte Fritz. If you are a resident of York (as I am) your comment is understandable. Time then to do what I and I hope many other York residents will do – namely to insist that the MP for York ( calls on Mr Cameron to urgently raise in hi s coming negotiations with the EU Commission the UK’s need to abandon entirely the EU Water Frameworks directive and the Habitat directive, both of which prevent or impair the EA from engaging an independent policy of water and rivers management and specifically dredging over a period of time for the Foss and Ouse.
      Raising this issue with the PM is far more important for York residents and thousands of other flood victims in the UK than the absurd minimal or irrelevant demands he is reported to be asking for.
      So far there is a deafening silence from MPs representing flood areas I have contacted with the same request.

      1. JoeSoap
        January 15, 2016

        You are right. There’s never been a better time to canvass your MP, whether in a flood zone affected recently or one which could be affected in future, to call on Cameron to abandon this directive as part of his “”re-negotiation””!

  13. stred
    January 15, 2016

    You might also ask the EA how many civil engineers it employs and how many vole fanciers.

    The chairman appointed last year must have been one of the few well qualified engineers capable of ensuring that the agency put in well designed flood defences and dredged to allow greater flow capacity. Unfortunately, the media class and MPs thought his working remotely in his holiday home was the important story and he resigned. I imagine he was well pensioned and decided he would let them get on with it.

    If the agency has few bosses who are competent in designing flood defences and maintaining rivers, they are unlikely to change their spots.

    Reply There is no evidence that he changed the workings of the EA on arrival

    1. Tom William
      January 15, 2016

      The EA needs a chairman who can challenge current policy, publicly. Also a government that listens, and acts.

      But if the EA is broken up flood management should be delegated to local authorities who would bear local responsibility. As floods only affect a small minority of the country it is easy for everyone else to suck their teeth, look for a scapegoat and then ignore the problem – until next time.

      1. stred
        January 16, 2016

        There has to be an overall authority for each catchment and rivers, as flows between LAs need to be co-ordinated. Didn’t we once have river authorities which worked with councils and employed engineers?

        1. Monty
          January 16, 2016

          Yes, we had the National Rivers Authority.

    2. JoeSoap
      January 15, 2016

      Reply to reply:
      In which case, his replacement certainly won’t! Why not get in somebody with a set brief to improve things rather than carry on with the same old failure mode? But then we should be voting for a different government with the same brief, and we don’t seem to….

    3. stred
      January 16, 2016

      How long did Dilley have to Dalley and was he involved in decisions not to dredge any more rivers than the Parrot?

  14. Bert Young
    January 15, 2016

    Perhaps – now there will be a new head of the Enviroment Agency , a new dynamic with an effective sense of priority and direction will be established . In any organisation where there is lack direction , lethargy and indiscipline is rife . The public do not get to witness the goings-on of the Enviroment Agency in any meaningful way and cannot therefore let their feelings be known ; occasionally the media do pick up the odd snippet or two but they are seldom followed up . The mentoring of this organisation has to be different and the communication to the outside more frequent .

    1. JoeSoap
      January 15, 2016

      or perhaps not…

  15. agricola
    January 15, 2016

    The performance of the EA should in fairness be judged against what the EU and our compliant government direct it to do. As far as one can deduce, up until recently, they have been committed to turn our rivers into wildlife sanctuaries at the expense of our population living near those rivers. It was only when the reality of this policy was felt in the Somerset Levels that the politicians woke to it’s impact on people. People not birds vote in elections.

    My best guess is that the backlog of what the EA have not done over decades is now being highlighted by the local vaguaries of weather. The weather can strike at random and has an extensive target area which is now vulnerable due to EU and government policy. At best the EA can only play catch up, now that government is taking a stronger line on what EA responsibilities should be. I would imagine that we are going to be vulnerable in many random areas, dependent on where the rain falls, for many years to come.

    It highlights the weakness of permitting a foreign power to dictate the mechanisms by which our country is governed. Power supply is yet another blatant example where we are teetering on the edge of disaster thanks to the EU and government compliance. The EU now wants an EU military and the UK to be part of it. Just imagine that the UK government, charged with protecting the nation and it’s people, can no longer do so due to the caprices of EU dictats. Different from flooding ,but far more dangerous. This is what Cameron wishes to lead us into. Caveat Emptor.

    1. Jerry
      January 15, 2016

      @agricola; “The performance of the EA should in fairness be judged against what the EU and our compliant government direct it to do.”

      Why, I bet the Netherlands version of the EA will not be allowed to leave the lowland to flood!

      Even if rivers are being left as wildlife sanctuaries that alone doesn’t explain why pumps are allowed to fail without some form of back-up, even more so if the EA know that river capacity/flow is reduced due to the non dredging. We are told that very high capacity pumps can be obtained from the Netherlands, why has the EA and government not obtained such pumps to be kept at a geographically central location(s) for rapid deployment, after all this is not the first time since the EA was set up that such flooding has occurred – yes such pumps will cost but nothing on what this government propose to waste on HS2.

      Neither does EU policy explain why UK planning permission is given to build anything (not just houses) on known or probably flood plains, and even then if there is a need to build on a flood plain why do we still allow traditional British houses to be built, it has been the norm for years in some countries to built such properties basically on stilts, most usually by placing nothing but the garage and storage on the ground floor so even if there is flooding it causes the minimum of damage, leaving the actual home habitable.

  16. acorn
    January 15, 2016

    Pound hits weakest level against euro in 11 months says at Mike Norman. “… from inside the logistics industry: there has been a significant drop off in outbound freight volumes from the UK for quite a while. Looks like price cutting in Euro terms has been implemented in response; now those price decisions are making their way into and effecting the exchange rate. It appears that the Eurozone, isn’t inclined to buy up Pounds to keep EU exports affordable to UK buyers. Seems the EU has some replacement customers for them BMWs.

  17. Bob
    January 15, 2016

    “The picture which emerges is of an Agency reluctant to undertake conventional maintenance and cleansing of rivers.”

    I thought we had established in a previous thread that the EA is prohibited by EU directives from interfering with the natural cycle, which is what has caused (or exacerbated) the problems.

    Reply Not so. The EU Directives contain a let out to protect people and their property.

    1. Bob
      January 15, 2016

      “The EU Directives contain a let out to protect people and their property.”

      Well in that case I look forward to a bonfire of this particular rather expensive and pointless quango.

    2. Graham Wood
      January 15, 2016

      JR ” The EU Directives contain a let out to protect people and their property. ”

      Which surely proves the case for the EA to decide an independent policy of dredging where needed in concert with other measures which will do that job of protecting people and property.
      The clear need is to be free from the inhibitions and constraints of EU directives which are no substitute for local knowledge and control with the traditional co-operation of local councils, farmers, landowners and other interested parties. .

    3. agricola
      January 15, 2016

      If your reply is correct and I have no reason to doubt it, until post Somerset Levels the government has failed to direct it’s quango for the benefit of our flooded electorate.

  18. Norman Bond
    January 15, 2016

    Perhaps the new chairman of the EA will start to make sure the business is effectively and efficiently managed rather than regarding the role as a trophy award.

    1. ChrisS
      January 15, 2016

      She Won’t

      She’s a Green Crap Specialist !

      What a catastrophic appointment

      1. Jerry
        January 17, 2016

        @ChrisS; That might or might not be the case, always assuming that she is made the permanent replacement, rather than just an immediately needed acting chairman of an Agency in crisis.

  19. oldtimer
    January 15, 2016

    Given the prior weather warnings and floood alerts that were issued and the new information you now report, it is clear that the department’s response was entirely unsatisfactory. It looks as though it is not just the chairman who should be stepping down.

  20. majorfrustration
    January 15, 2016

    So what is their money spent on? From a comment in yesterday’s postings its clear that what we can do with and to our waterways and rivers is largely down to EU regs. No surprise there then

    1. Know-Dice
      January 15, 2016

      $410 Million on salaries

      Average salary £41,000 sounds like a good place to work…

    2. agricola
      January 15, 2016

      From a total expenditure of £1,041.1 Million in 2014/15 they spent £411.3 Million on staff costs, leaving a balance of £629.8 Million. Of this balance £281.1 Million was spent on capital projects both coastal and inland on rivers. The remaining £348.7 Million is covered under myriad accounting headings which I cannot begin to unravel.

  21. Vanessa
    January 15, 2016

    Unfit for purpose, comes to mind having read this damning report. It seems that the people running the Environment Agency do not like spending their budget on keeping Britain dry but would rather use it to pay themselves HUMUNGOUS salaries and then say they have DONE NOTHING WRONG GOV!

  22. Shields man
    January 15, 2016

    I will probably repeat what has already been said, but Government failures are rapidly forgotten in the face of the next dilemma.
    The Environment Agency has been headed by unqualified political appointees (cronyism abounds) who have shown more concern for wildlife than humans with over zealous implementation of the European Water Framework Directive (EWF).

    It is the responsibility of the PM and his Government to ensure the safety and welfare of the Public. At ministerial level it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure that her Department and the various Government appointed Agencies (Quango’s) fulfill their duties and tasks successfully.

    The failure to prevent flooding by carrying out essential maintenance work on streams, rivers, bridges and the infrastructure was primarily caused by our membership of the EU and the implementation of the European Water Framework and the Birds Habitat Directives. If we had not been in the EU there would have been no directives and carrying on with preventives practices, little or no flooding. A first class reason for leaving the EU.

    Regardless of claims of unprecedented rainfall at Honister, which does not feed the Eden, major flooding that took place in Cumbria in 2005 has taken place again in 2015. There is 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? No doubt there will be much buck-passing and every last excuse will be stretched to its limits, but why were these works carried out so recently breached? It looks like it was incompetently engineered. The Victorians over engineered but their structures stood the test of time. We have failed to maintain and replace their works, which after many years of withstanding storm and tempest are failing.

    Now that David Cameron has thrown in the towel and decided to stay in the EU his Ministers have been told to fall into line. Liz Truss proclaims her love of the EU, not shared by the many Northern England flooded households. She appears oblivious to the fact that the over-zealously Environment Agency implemented European Water Framework and Birds Habitat Directives was the cause of much of the problem.

    1. Jerry
      January 17, 2016

      @Shields man; The EU’s European Water Framework and the Birds Habitat Directives are not responsible for the EA allowing population areas (Cities, towns and villages in other words) to flood, as has been stated there are clauses that allow for any such maintenance that is necessary. The Netherlands would not allow the lowlands to flood…

      This is a crisis made in London by past Governments and the EA.

      I fear that if those who want a Brexit keep trying to peddle myths about the EU causing such flooding it will backfire when other EU member countries (or their citizens) point out that they are free to safeguard their towns etc. from flooding!

      1. Edward2
        January 17, 2016

        Only within the confines of the directives Jerry.
        They have to show that towns are actually in danger of flooding for work to be permissable.
        So work is done after floods like in the Somerset Levels
        Routine maintenance work is not being done.
        Little money is being spent.
        As this article shows.

        1. Jerry
          January 19, 2016

          @Edward2; “So work is done after floods like in the Somerset Levels”

          That work could have been done before, the EA chose not to, you will not find the Dutch equivalent to the EA not maintaining the water courses etc. of their lowlands…

          This is not a crisis made in Brussels, and if those who wish for a Brexit try and use it as such it will backfire (just as with migration), voters might actually decide that what we need is more “EU” and less Whitehall quangos…

        2. Edward2
          January 19, 2016

          Referring to the Dutch is irrelevant Jerry
          The EA followed the instructions given to it by the EU and the UK Govt believe that the directives should be abided by.
          We follow the rules.
          We get the results we have seen

    January 15, 2016

    In answer to a question to the Big Three of the Environment Agency by a Select Committee MP, they replied that a review of communication ( with the public ) was ongoing and indeed some internal group was discussing how better to do it.
    Maybe flood victims will be given inch by inch, metre by metre commentary and a report in triplicate of just how high the water mark on their lounge pianos.Judging by the Env Agny’s apparent inactivity it might be an idea if they contacted schools advising that children be given additional swimming lessons.

    The bronze-age village built on stilts

    This should remind us all, as we stumble over our umbrellas ballarina-ed precariously as ever at our front doors that our country has been lucky enough to be flooded since time immemorial providing security, transport, doorstep plumbing and drinking water not to mention high protein fish. Obviously, one way or another, we need to make more use of our wonderful flooding. Indeed many millions throughout the world depend on regular flooding for survival.

    One just has to remark that Elizabeth Truss (MP for South West Norfolk) and Rory Stewart (MP for Penrith and The Border) were seen many times throughout the floods with bedraggled hair; wet and shivering, obviously not on a photo-shoot but doing a good job.
    Their Wikipedia bios… Absolutely remarkable. Their Shadow counterparts in the Labour Party irrespective of political orientation, are not a match for them.

  24. ferdinand
    January 15, 2016

    In one report I read that the Foss pumps would have shorted out if the water had reached any higher. Who on earth designed a pumping unit where the motor was below peak water level ?

  25. ian wragg
    January 15, 2016

    I see another eco-loon has been appointed as head of the EA. We really are ruled by some of the most stupidest people on the planet.
    Why are the public held in such contempt by the politicians.
    I see Gideon is not planning for Brexit because he has helped secure such a good deal from Germany (sorry Brussels).
    Stephen Kinnock tells us if we try to leave the EU they will gang up on us and make our life difficult. Sums it up really……….. tossers the lot of them.

  26. Martyn G
    January 15, 2016

    I have commented before on this issue, having been involved with the River Thames as a volunteer assistant lock keeper for past 4 years. I can categorically say that when the news hit us in early 2015 that there was to be no dredging, everyone I know on the locks on the upper Thames could not believe what they were hearing. Not only that, it took the local EA HQ by surprise and astonishment, so it obviously came down from a high level somewhere in the EA at the time.
    We all can see that there are going to be more floods if we get heavy rain this winter and that the 2016 boating season is going to see even more boats than last year going aground. In fact, I suspect that without dredging, the lock near me, being situated on a bend where the silt is piling up 24/7, will become inaccessible by the bigger commercial passenger boats this year.
    The truly mad situation is that if it is the case that dredging has become undesirable to protect the fish, snails and other water life, even now the Thames stream is so fast and heavy that it is stripping them out of their homes – the very reverse of that which is intended. But can we get anyone to see sense? Er, not a chance!

  27. ChrisS
    January 15, 2016

    The overwhelmingly Green background of Emma Howard Boyd, Dilley’s replacement, offers very little confidence that flood prevention will take over from Environmental considerations as the Agency’s primary objective.

    It looks very much like more of the same and that’s precisely not what the public wants to see.

  28. Bill
    January 15, 2016

    Thanks for asking these questions and publishing the answers. I hope the national press will make some stories run from the material here. I would like to see this as the top item on the BBC news. Now is the time to set the agenda for the Environment Agency.

    Candidly you would have thought that pumping stations would be hermetically sealed against flooding so that they could operate even if water was lapping at their doors.

    1. Bob
      January 15, 2016


      “I would like to see this as the top item on the BBC news.”

      Don’t hold your breath.

  29. Mark
    January 15, 2016

    There are now four board level positions at the EA up for grabs:

    Chairman, to replace Dilley
    PR director, to replace Pam Gilder (responsible for insulating the EA from opinion)
    Director for Green interests (non exec)
    Director for mollifying councils cheated of flood protection spending on dredging etc. (non exec)

    Perhaps the last two directorships should be re-purposed, and the opportunity taken to thoroughly shake up the board and its approach. Ms Truss should take an active interest, and be encouraged to go for the root and branch clearout of Greens. The organisation, like a fish, has rotted from its (past) heads.

    January 15, 2016

    One question on BBC Parliament to Ms Truss Secretary of State for Food the Environment and Rural Affairs:
    She answered that Local Authorities would be responsible for such and such in regard to flood prevention, and whether housing was allowed to be placed on flood plains .

    I realise Ms Truss as with other high profile Ministers, takes the reins of their responsibilities with built-in procedures. She can only golf with the clubs she’s got in Local Authorities.

    But much of the emphasis on localism and the usefulness of Local Authorities stems from an urban myth, literally. The myth is that local people, in this case local Councillors, have local knowledge or indeed almost have instinctually know-betterism in their local DNA.

    I could give a long example, but safe to say we all know local Councillors of all parties are not grounded in local geology, finances, farming theory, retails strategies, road building techniques and medical best practice etc etc.etc. That they should be singularly entrusted with local use: housing development on flood plains where obviously a whole realm of activities well up river outside their domain both mentally and geographically, is a political ongoing error,- a politically expedient.

    Mr. Rory Stewart MP, Minister of the Environment was good enough to listen to numerous MPs’ contributions in BBC Parliament and then mouthed a brief summary of each and every opinion to show he had indeed listened. Literally they indicated a complex interactive problem up hill and down dale.

    In my opinion, no interactive grouping of various agencies however well-meant and however well-organised is going to be able to act with power holistically to address the nature of the beast. Trying to incentivise , for exaple up-river farmers monetarily to plant trees treads on the toes of EU directives, local landowners, and planning rules.

    In short, more than just a Flood Prevention Czar is needed. Not a figurehead. One naturally shies away from a “dictator” . But someone quite special with the minimum of bureaucratic encumbrance needs to take the helm.

  31. forthurst
    January 15, 2016

    “The Environment Agency is responsible for 347 fixed pumping stations, including the Foss one in York which was deemed to be overwhelmed and led to the decision to flood parts of the city.”

    The EU has given their explanation for what took place leading to the raising of the Foss barrier. The Foss barrier exists to prevent water from the Ouse backing up into the Foss. However, on this occasion, the water level was higher in the Foss; the reason for this was that the barrier pumps could transfer 30 tonnes of water a second into the Ouse; however 35 tonnes per second was arriving at the barrier causing the water in the Foss to back up. They then realised that the waters were seeping into the building housing the electrics for the pumps, impying that there was a risk that if the pumps were inactivated whilst the barrier was down, water would have nowhere to go and could flood of the whole Foss basin.

    According to a puff piece, the barrier could still function in the event of a power cut, with two generators being able to power four of the eight pumps.

    According to a letter, the barrier could be raised manually in an emergency, implying the decision to raise the barrier was premature.

    Two years ago, there was a petition to the EU from York residents and businesses demanding that the Ouse should be dredged to prevent further flooding.

    It would appear that the EU is guilty of a wilful neglect of its responsibility to dredge and a total lack of contingency planning.

    1. forthurst
      January 15, 2016

      …the EA not the EU.

  32. The PrangWizard
    January 15, 2016

    Evidence for and justification of 2016 becoming ‘England’s Year of Rage’ is building up nicely with this appalling appointment to the EA, which has happened surprising quickly too, and Cameron and Osborne saying they have no plans for Brexit, ie., they have no intention whatever of allowing the UK to leave the EU. If Dan Hannan is right they are intent on closer union in the longer term.

    I don’t know how we can clean the Augean stables, but cleaned they must be. Who or what will play the role of Hercules? We sorely need his modern day equivalent because they will not clean themselves. Who will rid England of the malign influence of the British Establishment and the Elite’s revolving doors policy when it comes to jobs at the top?

    It is a pointless to expect Cameron and his clique to make the change,etc ed.

  33. Davie Crockett
    January 15, 2016

    Dear Mr Redwood, is it possible to table a commons vote to defund EA and all it affiliates.

    They are clearly a biblical waste of space, completely unfit for purpose and a parasitical drain on the scarce resources of this country.

    Half the money could go back to treasury.

    I’m sure the balance could be distributed to local councils and committees to actually deal with the issues locally & be accountable to local people.

  34. Peter Davies
    January 15, 2016

    Surely it’s within the government’s remit to sort this out

    Time to go back to local management

  35. Margaret
    January 15, 2016

    If Holland can do it why can’t we? The Dutch lead the way in many contentious issues such as euthanasia, sexual freedom. legalisation of drugs : all issues which we may not to follow , but let us look at the good and safe in this windmill strewn country and build dykes.

    January 15, 2016

    “Evidence from the Prime Minister” BBC Parliament 12 Jan 2016. Rt Hon Mr Cameron was asked: ” What is your LONG TERM term vision for Flooding defences , in the same sense that you have a long-term vision for the economy?”

    Rt. Hon Mr Cameron’s answer ( in part ): ” Not to build on flood plains is a simplistic answer. London is a flood plain and we need to build more houses on it.”

    Just how much incremental rain and flooding does it take for Mr Cameron to get it? It seems that so long as wherever he walks the water does not come over the top of his hunter’s green wellibobs then his world is as dry as a camel’s bottom in a sandstorm.

  37. Nig L
    January 16, 2016

    Dieter Helm, the Governments own expert on ‘natural capital’ was quoted as saying the EA has never considered how the optimal flood defence strategy for a catchment area would actually look. Instead it has gone on applying sticking plaster solutions with inadequate Treasury money. Result continual failure. The Government stands accused of suppressing a well referenced document from the EA on the adverse effect of dredging, it disappearing from their website. We are told dredging destroys habitats and is illegal under EC law. Liz Truss obviously in a knee jerk panic indicated that farmers could dredge their ditches only for us to learn that, that would result in more water pouring downstream and inundating the towns and villages down stream.

    What seems to have worked and is needed is to allow farmland to hold the water and a pioneering scheme in Pickering did just that.

    Sticking plaster solutions, your Government, your Minister.

  38. Bazman
    January 16, 2016

    This pretty much shows you the Tory mentality on any given service or benefit to the population.
    It would have been interesting to see what the Tories response would have been to expensive areas of London flooding causing the filling up with filthy water of billionaires ‘iceberg’ basements at the same time as the north was flooding. All the large pumps in the country would have first priority there as sure as night follows day.
    A real catastrophe would be their sources of funding being stopped.

    1. Edward2
      January 16, 2016

      Address your complaints to the EA Baz
      It’s their responsibility to apportion the billion plus budget they have nationwide.
      Trying to blame the Tories all the time is a bit of a socialist cliche

      1. Bazman
        January 17, 2016

        Who should I address the points made in the link edward or are you going to tell me this is also a socialist cliche’. It is socialism for the rich though. Lets see you defend expensive dogma causing misery and great social expense.
        Maybe the poor and disabled could be weaned off money huh? They probably just spend it on booze and fags anyway.

        1. Edward2
          January 17, 2016

          The EA has the funds but it won’t do the work.
          Just blaming the Tories all the time is ridiculous.
          Ask the EA why it won’t spend more on river bank maintenance and dredging.
          See if they blame the Tories

          1. Bazman
            January 18, 2016

            Can you not see my link edward? A different topic, but shows how the Tories think and they think the same on flooding. Short term funding and ideas costing more for everyone except themselves. Same old same old.

          2. Edward2
            January 19, 2016

            The funding of the EA has gone up year on year to over a billion
            It’s about how the EA decide priorities and get value for the money they spend
            Just blaming the cuts and austerity is weak.
            This post by Mr Redwood shows how little of their budget is spent on flood prevention.

      2. Jerry
        January 17, 2016

        Edward2; “Address your complaints to the EA Baz”

        Why should he, his comment is on topic, our host has chosen to open such a debate here, but if you are correct (or are claiming to be our host) then why are you commenting here too Edward, practice what you preach, send your own complaints to the EA…

        “Trying to blame the Tories all the time is a bit of a socialist cliche”

        Oh and people like you trying to blame the Labour party (or ‘socialism’) all the time is not a bit of a right-wing cliche too ❓ Duh!

        1. Edward2
          January 17, 2016

          You are becoming the heckler on here.

          Bazman blames the Tories all the time and I am perfectly entitled to say he should address his moans at the EA itself.
          The EA has loads of money
          It needs to spend more on river bank maintenance and dredging.
          But it is unwilling to do so.

          1. Jerry
            January 19, 2016

            @Edward2; “You are becoming the heckler on here.”

            You really do take the …brisket, you do nothing else towards me. Now you heckle @Bazman simply because he says something you would prefer not be said – the only person who has the right to tell someone to “shut up” [1] or direct their comments elsewhere is our host -who I assume is not you “@Edward2”.

            [1] who has a very easy way of doing so!

          2. Edward2
            January 19, 2016

            I’ve not asked anyone to shut up here Jerry
            More fantasy comments from you.
            Just pointing out the other side of your argument
            Sorry if that offends you.

  39. Mark
    January 17, 2016

    Upcoming board meetings

    Please email if you would like to attend one of our open board meetings.

    2 February 2016
    17 May 2016

    A diary date for JR perhaps?

Comments are closed.