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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

DEFRA Acknowledge "EA out of control"?

Maybe I'm willfully reading too much into this - but if they mean what they say (and that's not totally clear :-), then some scrutiny of what's going on at the EA is coming down the tracks...

Nicked from EndsReport here :http://www.endsreport.com/index.cfm?go=43910

DEFRA seeks to take strategic control of arm’s length bodies

DEFRA is to give the Environment Agency and Natural England a stronger steer on their priorities at the start of each financial year.
The move is revealed in the department's latest improvement plan, which describes an elaborate set of changes to how it and its regulators function. This includes a new top-down approach to designing policies and allocating resources.
DEFRA denies the changes will compromise its regulators’ independence. But this assertion jars with the tone of the document, which says DEFRA and its “wider family” will operate increasingly as “one business” with a “single voice” that is more “strategic, flexible and resilient”.
It is a similar language to that being used at DECC.
According to the improvement plan, DEFRA’s board has decided it needs a better overall picture of what is happening throughout the department and its arm’s length bodies.
The plan says DEFRA will start setting priorities across the whole department “to avoid ‘gold plating’ of some customer services, policy and evidence”.
As well as bringing together structures, systems and processes, it wants to introduce clearer responsibilities for senior staff, eliminate duplication and provide “appropriate independence” for statutory bodies and functions.
This means it can “sharpen decisions on priorities when resources are tight” and will be “better at flexing resources to deal with an emergency because we have a system-wide understanding of where they are”.
DEFRA also wants a simpler accountability structure. Following their joint triennial review, the heads of the Environment Agency and Natural England were required to report directly to the secretary of state.

Strategic steer

Key to achieving these aims will be a “new HQ commissioning approach, replacing ‘bottom up’ or incremental approaches to policy design and resource allocation with stronger direction and strategic reprioritisation”. This is being piloted with the Environment Agency and Natural England.
When asked to elaborate, a DEFRA spokeswoman said this meant the department would outline regulators’ priorities at the start of the financial year, rather than throughout it.
She suggested this would be a matter of timing rather than a fundamental shift in how things are done. “It means DEFRA will give a clearer strategic steer or ask at the start of the corporate planning cycle. By doing this, the ‘network buddies’ should have greater certainty of priorities.”
The approach will be evaluated in July to see whether it has helped the regulators develop their corporate plans for 2015/16 more quickly and efficiently.
The spokeswoman said resource allocation would “remain a matter for the bodies” and denied the changes would alter or compromise their independence. But it is difficult to see how this would be the case in practice, given that DEFRA is taking such a top-down approach and its explicit aim of reprioritising resources across the department.
The improvement plan recognises that to achieve its aims it will need a “realistic plan of action, which takes people with us”. “Financial pressures are a key driver of reform, but this agenda is not ‘just about the money’. Neither is it ‘just about survival’. It’s about future success.”
As such DEFRA is seeking to enact culture change within its ranks. This was one of the aims of the ‘red-tape challenge’.
A strategic reform plan published in April says it has introduced a new system, Policy Implementation Management and Made Simple (PIMMS), to “improve and support greater openness within DEFRA’s policy development process and a more consistent approach across the organisation.”
This includes new policy appraisal statements to formally start new policies and impact assessments.
It will also set up a ‘policy tracker’, which will be the single database of regulatory and non-regulatory policies. DEFRA says this will improve the quality of reporting to senior managers and their ability to prioritise activities and resources.
It also promises new training programmes, drop-in sessions, workshops and internal communications, complemented by improved internal guidance.


  1. That would be good get rid of the waste meat at the top .....

  2. Will the Policy Tracker make any difference. The EA use Guidelines to circumvent Policy and treat them as Law. They ignore the real laws stating as an QANGO things like the Penfold Review don't apply to them as they are not a Government Department. Also they are not Civil Servants but Public Servants so the Civil Service Code which is supposed to control their actions in relation to the public does not apply. They are apparently unaccountable to anyone for their actions. Good Luck DEFRA the EA needs a major culture change/ restart.

  3. How can the EA be "Out of Control" when no control is being exercised by the senior management? Using the word control in relation to EA internal procedures is an oxymoron. Rather like some of the morons in the senior management of the EA. Bullying, lying and every other form of disreputable behaviour is required for promotion. I was once told the EA had problems sorting out leases for their properties because their lawyers were only used to dealing with court cases against people who somehow fell foul of their interpretation of the law. It is nice to see someone taking on what is obviously a corrupt organisation.



Get it off yer chest - please keep it civil