The government can’t even manage the weather

I guess I am relieved we were spared a posing Minister for drought three years ago, and an overexposed Minister for floods over the last couple of years. I would, however, like the Ministers responsible for water supply and water control to do something instead of just saying things.

Three summers ago it was hot and dry. We ran out of water, so it was rationed. I called for a new reservoir in the dry south-east, and backed the plan for a desalination plant for London to act as reserve supply for dry times. Neither project has got past the drawing board three years on. On the law of averages we will get a dry summer sometime, and clearly we will have one before this government has got round to building the extra capacity we need for all the extra people they have invited in and all the extra homes they are building in the south east.

Now we have had two of the coldest and wettest summers I have ever had the misfortune to live through in a row. Fourteen months ago all too many people were flooded in their homes. We have had fourteen months of memos, lawyers letters, arguments over which public body is responsible in each case, Ministerial statements, a major Enquiry and Report, but very few men in diggers actually improving the ditches and digging a few more where there is too much water flowing.

What people want is some solutions. Public sepnding is now racing to £10,000 a year for every man, woman and child in the country. Why can’t they, within these huge budgets, afford just something to improve our land drainage, and to collect enough of the water so in drier times we don’t run out? Why is this just impossible for them to do? Why does everything take so long, cost so much and work so badly? Why does the Environment Agency define its job as warning peopole they might be flooded rather than helping ensure they will not be flooded? And why yesterday did Ministers give up on talking to the media and leave it to an official to do so? Are they at last embarassed by their lack of action?


  1. DennisA
    September 7, 2008

    It's far easier to blame it all on global warming and do nothing, as with the East Coast sea defences which are being abandoned.

  2. Chuck Unsworth
    September 7, 2008

    Almost all Ministers are now in full retreat. The Government is withdrawing from the electorate as fast as it can. I look forward to the Conferences this year.

    Name one Minister at any level of Government who is actually in control and doing a decent job.

  3. Johnny Norfolk
    September 7, 2008

    Because this is a do nothing to help normal people government. The only skill they have is thinking up new ways to tax us and then spend it in the most stupid ways.

    General election as soon a possible please.

  4. DiscoveredJoys
    September 7, 2008

    I don't think that this is solely a government problem, although the government may be the most expensive example. I believe that this is down to the cult of celebrity.

    This shows itself in several ways. Roads don't get maintained because the problems are low profile and the budgets open to being cut – but a large bypass is 'sexy' and probably funded by a ringfenced budget.

    Fixing leaky water distribution pipes and building reservoirs are infrastructure works, and just not sexy. Particularly when planning permission takes so long!

    Look at the railways, ongoing maintenance dragged out and large schemes (like the Midlands Main Line electrification) sidelined indefinitely. I note that interest in track maintenance took a big upturn once people started dying because of the lack of it.

    Infection control in hospitals is still more talked about than actioned (not very sexy asking people to wash their hands). I wonder how many more people must die (or senior managers prosecuted) before this shameful killing spree is ended?

    Some stuff is going ahead due to government action of course (give the devil his due). The current massive refurbishment or rebuilding of schools was long overdue.

    The introduction of national IT systems into the NHS was also long overdue, although you and I might argue that the 'big bang' approach is the wrong and expensive way of doing things.

    So there you are. I don't think you need 'czars' of any stripe to make things happen… just ordinary middle managers given a clear brief, budget, and authority to match their responsibility.

    1. Chuck Unsworth
      September 8, 2008

      "just ordinary middle managers given a clear brief, budget, and authority to match their responsibility"

      Precisely. And the whole thrust of this government has been to take away all powers and, hence, responsibilities. The constant change and micro-management has damaged society beyond repair.

  5. Adrian Peirson
    September 7, 2008

    Normally I agree with you John, but this time you are wrong, the ( Global ) Govt can control the Weather.

  6. mike stallard
    September 8, 2008

    I like to think that all the king's horses and all the king's top scientists, including Al Gore and Mr Brown and so on are trying to control the climate as well as everything else.
    Hitler did it. Hitler weather characterised his rise in the 1930s.
    The Chinese are determined to control the weather for their Olympics.

    Meanwhile the real weather authorities – God, Mother Nature, whatever – are sitting on Mount Olympus laughing their socks off.

    1. mike stallard
      September 8, 2008

      ….and we get some extra blogs!

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