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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Moaning vs. Being Constructive or Woe !!! the Cuts!


                      15% of Environment Agency jobs to go? - is there a plan?

That is more than a decimation - and those proposing these cuts must feel that the workforce are not performing adequately. We'd rather predictably say - it's not enough. Some attention must be given to altering the way this organisation goes about it's duties - and it's duty not "business" that constrains the activities of a statutory body.

Given what we've learnt is the last four years it's simply indisputable that The Environment Agency is plumbing the depths of dysfunctionality - even for an overstuffed "free range" quango. The overblown EA has essentially lost its way and lost effective collaboration with the population and especially those unfortunates "regulated" by it. It presently exists in a suffocating, self regarding la-la land where it's becoming clearer than ever that a quite dizzying variety of abuses are commonplace and embedded in the present organisational culture. In some cases those attributes are being promulgated into spawned client / semi detached organisations...

The phrase "root and branch reform" rather unsurprisingly comes to mind. It's very clear from the insights provided by Henry (and others via personal contact, phone and email) that overstaffing and ineffective management have combined to cultivate idle indulgence and that an almost complete absence of discipline has enabled individual officials to exercise arbitrary power when it is neither legally sanctioned or - in fact in most cases even remotely appropriate at the outset of a problem being identified (or, 'pon occasion created).

This "quiet start" has been made by instructing the EA to trim its workforce  - however, it utterly fails to address what we already know to be damage done to individuals, organisations and businesses which are subject to the EA's presently malign influence. EA misbehaviour must be addressed. It's interesting to note in the linkedarticle above that Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth  (tag:"Seeing Things Differently" ) director of "policy and campaigns" commenting / lamenting on "the cuts" has a woefully shallow grasp of what's involved here.

We know some folk in the higher reaches of Whitehall and in the political parties drop by here and we'd like to send a very clear message - and yet again - we say - it's time to clean out the stables. The Office of The Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman , The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee  and last but not least The High Court (both Criminal and Administrative divisions...) should be a places of absolute last resort and not the only recourse to remedy for petty wrongs perpetrated by public servants. A parliamentary investigation seems entirely appropriate.

The EA does do some things right - but that does not justify them in any way ignoring and being totally obstinate about putting right what they do wrong.

We know that internally there's discontent at the management culture, there's bad behaviour, there's discontent out amongst the regulated, there's overmanning, there's inefficiency and there's alarming lack of competence in key areas and an unhealthy appetite for the shameless fabrication / invention of justification in senior management.

It's in the consultation phase - but we're working up a survey about attitudes and possible remedies to the present untenable situation across the EA's activities - not just hydro power.  Trade associations, NGOs, environmental media outlets and last but not least EA employees will be invited to participate = don't hold your breath!

Decimation is not enough - somebody is going to have to knock the survivors into shape - and there has to be a plan for that shape - because if the culture doesn't change you'll just have a smaller version of the original and that patently won't be any good at all....

15%? - will that be by  lottery?   The decimation procedure was a pragmatic attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the practicalities of dealing with a large group of offenders...

EDIT
It's worth noting (via comments) that the English EA (i.e. leave out Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) has a bigger staff that all the other EU members environment agencies combined 

20 comments:

  1. I feel for the many worthwhile staff who work in the field. They are mainly hampered by people in offices who think that water comes out of a tap and plants come from garden centres. I know a number of ex EA staff who left rather than be promoted to being office based. Of course it is the actual working operational staff at the bottom of the ladder that will be hit most and probably get the lowest redundancy payout. The wastrels at the top and the paper pushers in the offices will continue unfortunately.

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    Replies
    1. I'd agree with you there anon - maybe I didn't spell that out too well... Have wandered around the EA's doings and web site for 4 years now I'm a little in awe of the diversity and quantity of pointless and frankly damaging activity that the organisation wallows in.

      All I'm saying I suppose is that can we have routine statutory duties discharged in an honest, responsible and efficient manner before we move on to eco advocacy, sustainability and diversity?

      It's long past time that the EA had a thorough shake up / restructure - it's been allowed to drift and please itself since the beginning - and it shows.....



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  2. I don't think 15% goes far enough.The fact the Environment Agency claims itself to be the biggest in the Europe says it all. Surely, an organisation whose purpose is solely to protect the environment and defend against floods should not need a workforce of nearly 11,000, especially when other, large nations in Europe are able to deliver the same with less i.e. Germany and France.

    English Environment Agency has 11,400 staff (http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/aboutus/149356.aspx) - population 53 million

    The German Federal Environment Agency has 1,400 staff (http://www.bmu.de/en/bmu/organisation/federal-authorities/federal-environment-agency/) - population 81 million

    The French Environment and Energy Management Agency has 820 staff (http://www2.ademe.fr/servlet/KBaseShow?sort=-1&cid=96&m=3&catid=17614) - population 65 million

    The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has 530 staff (http://www.swedishepa.se/About-us/) - population 9.5 million

    Any reason why our Environment Agency employs soo many people to do the same work? I think a reasonable size would be around 7,000 and that's being generous.

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    Replies
    1. anon - When you put it like that - it's hard not to agree.

      You missed out the European Environment Agency eh?

      Delete
    2. Somebody else has done the 'rithmetik!

      In other words:
      Germany 1 to 50,000
      France 1 to 80,000
      Sweden 1 to 18,000

      And the UK-EA tada! 1 to 5,000

      So TEN TIMES as many "environmental regulators" as Germany - yeow!

      btw The European Environment Agency isn't too keen to tell everybody how many people they employ - it's certainly not on their web site and they've had the occasional brush with criticism over how much they're spending.....

      They had to re-do their 2013 accounts (twice) from €42 million to €47 million as they'd missed/misplaced erm.... €5 million - i.e. got their "budget" wrong by 10%

      Delete
    3. Ah... thanks for that

      soooo.....

      The EA requires pruning by at least 50% to be in even the same ballpark as our neighbours ?? One has to wonder what other UK government departments are similarly overstuffed

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    4. Anon 08:48

      I asked and was provided with the numbers for the EU-EA they're here (PDF Annual Report 2012)

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  3. Anyone else notice this part "During the online question and answer session, staff members apparently asked if the agency could increase the fees it charges industry to make up for the budget shortfall. They were told that was not politically acceptable." Shows the mentality there, doesn't it? Seems Henry was right all along.

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  4. That explains quite a bit!

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  5. No Wonder we are in such a mess!! i hope David Cameron reads this blog? shut the EA down, even Gordon Brown new they were not fit for purpose!! whats taken this government so long????

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    Replies
    1. Dave ? - read this blog?

      Heh - not sure - but The Cabinet Office visit 'pon occasion and MPs have been known to borrow whole slabs of text from here :-)

      As to why there's no action - well, a holed, rudderless ship with people squabbling over where they're going and whose turn it is on the steering wheel - go figure :-)

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  6. Further to Anon: Add to the above Denmark's EPA with 450 staff (http://www.mst.dk/English/About+the+Danish+EPA/EPA_employees/) to a population of 5.6 million, Portuguese Environment Agency with 800 staff (http://www.apambiente.pt/index.php?ref=5&subref=632) to a population of 10.5 million and the Austrian Environment Agency with 477 staff (http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/en/en_aboutus/fakten_zahlen/) with a population of 8.4 million.

    The strange thing is how many additional duties the German, French, Swedish, Denmark, Portugal and Austria (everything from energy, environment, water, air quality to climate change, sustainable development and more which are usually done by DECC agencies and local councils in this country) take on with the lower number of required staff compared to our EA.

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  7. US Environment Protection Agency has 17,000 staff covering the whole of the USA with a population of 313 million (http://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/index.htm). I think this has well and truly put into perspective the waste inside our EA.

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  8. I'm compiling a report to publish to a well know national paper. I've recently been emailing the ministers responsible. The latest request goes as follows (inspired by latest revelations):

    Dear Defra Ministers,

    I am compiling a report on the Environment Agency due to the number of complaints and stories I have received from people up and down the country.

    I am sure you are already aware of the website www.insidetheenvironmentagency.co.uk. One of the latest stories poses the question of why the Environment Agency employs more staff than all other Environment Agencies throughout the EU combined.

    In fact, it is close to a size that rivals the US Environmental Protection Agency.

    As you are already aware, our country is had to go through severe austerity, so it is shocking to see such waste still taking place in a public body like the Environment Agency.

    Please can you advise why the recent staff cuts are only restricted to 15% and why the Environment Agency requires such a large body of staff compared to any other Environment Agency across the world?

    I look forward to hearing soon.

    Yours sincerely,

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  9. Dear Public Accounts Committee,

    With more and more information coming out about the Environment Agency, and with more people making complaints about the service and employment conditions (bullying), I find it astonishing that the Environment Agency has not been re-examined.

    A latest post on www.insidetheenvironmentagency.co.uk compares the size of the Environment Agency with those in the rest of the EU and the US EPA. I'd like to know why the Environment Agency employs more people than all other Environment Agencies in the EU combined. I would also like to know why they set to rival the US EPA in size. As a nation with just 53 million people, why do we need 11,700 staff when a nation like Germany and France (industrialised with 80+ and 60+ million respectively) are capable of protecting the environment and defend against flooding with fewer than 1,000 staff each?

    My local council and NHS trust are being drastically cut and the service is being impeded, yet the government thinks it's prudent to over fund and overstaff less critical services.

    Please can you advise when this will be looked into?

    Yours sincerely,

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  10. There is internal revolt going on with these cuts, BUT I can understand why it's needed. Look around almost any of our offices. See the covert phone-users, the private emailers, the game-players, the asleep at their desk sorts - do as little as you can and get away with it; it's endemic, part of the national mindset and culture. Henry, kudos to you for having the guts to come out.

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    Replies
    1. You forgot the approximately 4000 tenders of professional social networking and the Twitterers and Facebookers

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  11. One of the side effects created by the proposed cuts is the knock on delays to hydropower development and many other private environmental projects as the EA create ever more complex hoops to show that they are a necessity. Yes I have heard an EA officer complain that when he joined it was a job for life and he is only in his forties so I would expect them to be upset on having to join the real world. The sooner they disband this bloated, dysfunctional bunch the better.

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Get it off yer chest - please keep it civil