What mistake?

Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley spends Christmas in Barbados while Britain floods
Sir Philip decided to bask in 30C heat of Caribbean despite promising he would not repeat the mistakes of his predecessor Chris Smith

He’s living in luxury and getting £100k a year for a part time job.

What mistake?

29 comments on “What mistake?

  1. I get puzzled when commentators cry out “it’s disgusiting, my MP/the PM/some bigwig should be here in the floods, not at home!”

    Why? They’re MPs/whatever, not plumbers, electricians, plasterers, civil defence rescuers, firemen, paramedics, etc. Keep them out of the way.

  2. Agreed, there’s no practical benefit to having the mp wandering around looking serious. And frankly, any organisation that cannot respond effectively when it’s leader is unavailable is already in a mess.

    Policy should be reviewed, sure, but that’s a longer-term process. This is just the usual entitlement-whine : the victims want someone ‘important’ to kiss and make it better.

  3. All of the above is why this Dilley chap gets 100K for a part time job. He has to do strategic vision (AKA whatever the government of the day wants) and take flak when a crisis occurs. An expensive part time bullet catcher for the government.

  4. @NielsR Frankly, any organisation that can respond effectively when it’s leader is unavailable doesn’t need that leader and certainly doesn’t need to pay them a 6 figure salary at taxpayers expense…

    As with most modern manager types he is completely fucking useless and doesn’t seem to know what a leader is suppose to do.

    He doesn’t need to go to the flooded areas, but I’d still expect him to be turn up, talk to people, be the PR man, put a pick of stick about with his people if needed and at to least look like he is charge and gives a shit about what he’s being paid very well to do. I don’t expect him to be sitting on his arse drinking margaritas on a beach 4000 miles away.

  5. @ Crazed Weevil
    He’s on holiday – he has organised a deputy to depute for him while he’s on holiday. The deputy should be appearing in one of the floods which doesn’t get a Cameron

  6. @crazed weevil

    Actually I’d expect him to trust his staff and take the occasional phone call from the guys on the ground to authorise overtime, and whatever spending is needed. Best place for him is thousands of miles away for now. Once it’s all over he’ll earn his cash working out how it can be done better next time

  7. Exactly. Since some of the flooding was exacerbated in some places by the failure of EA equipment, and EA employees were generally working flat out to deal with that and the flooding generally, I’d expect him to display more of an immediate interest, even if he’s a figurehead and not part of engineering.

    For example, Branson was on holiday but appeared promptly after the Grayrigg derailment, clearly having absorbed a thorough briefing meanwhile.

  8. @AndyH Once it’s all over he’ll earn his cash working out how it can be done better next time

    And it’s utterly adorable that you think this will happen and that he is worth a 6 figure salary at our expense for doing it.

  9. What was Chris Smith’s mistake ?

    Taking it bareback in the canteen ?

    Surely the whole point of a job like this is to have no involvement in the day to day running, but be wheeled out occasionally to say how he feels the ordinary peoples’ pain.

    Although if memory serves me correctly, Smith did invent a whole new kind of rain.

  10. Actually ….

    I think you’ll find that Sir Phillip Dilley is the original “Invisible Man”.

    Since the replaced the ghastly Smiffy as EA chairperson he has not been seen much and has actually said even less in public…

    I’d like to know if he actually “puts in” the requisite 156 days. They struggled to get anyone to grasp the poison chalice. It is a measure – and not a good one – of the EA’s bunker mentality hanging on to their perks and privileges that the MSM go after Dilley in a pique of frustration given that organisation’s high handed self serving antics….

  11. Earlier I wrote “even if he’s a figurehead and not part of engineering”, not knowing that he has indeed got an engineering background.

  12. @crazed weevil

    That kind of cynical ‘ they’re all useless and corrupt’ attitude is just sad lazy thinking. No evidence. No investigation. Any idea how hard the job of the environment agency can be? No. Just an armchair commenter with a misplaced feeling of superiority.

  13. “Agreed, there’s no practical benefit to having the mp wandering around looking serious.”

    Yes there is, its their job to raise it if their constituents are being failed by Government.

  14. Andy H

    granted there are hard working conscientious individuals in the EA – no question.

    There are also truckloads of bad apples that are comprehensively letting us all down – scamming their hours and expenses, trolling around in too many insanely overpriced lease cars operating well outside their competence zones and creating mayhem and engendering considerable ill will from those they are supposed to be helping on the path to eco-salvation.

    It is one of the disappointments of 2015 that the insidetheenvironmentagency blog disappeared – maybe the poor guy tired of it, maybe he was knobbled…. one thing is absolutely certain. The EA provided NO shortages of bad or plain mad behaviour to fill that blog….

  15. @CrazedWeevil – I’m not defending the guy in any depth, he could very easily be incompetent and overpaid as well as absent. But no, it’s the job of line staff to deal with the floods, and they should already be trained, equipped (including decent pay for the work) and authorised to take all but the most extreme measures to do so.

    Only if that hasn’t been done, or the extreme measures are required, would I *expect* the guy to jump in, and then only if it can’t be handled remotely.

    @BiND – again, if there are competent deputies showing their faces I don’t think it’s necessary, and might even be better – one man wading around seems a terrible way to get to grips with all the people flooded out of home and work.
    Parliament will have very little influence on how the EA deals with the current problems, anyway. If the staff are shit or the defenses have been compromised or the planning hasn’t been done and practiced then high-level pressure and even hosing money at the situation is likely to have only minor benefit, see eg Brooks’ Law.
    I agree that people will feel better about it in the short term, so it might be politically smart. But my point is that it’s a poor response to the underlying problems. And if people clamour for a bullet-catcher to moan at, they shouldn’t then be shocked if he’s not interested in actually solving the problems. Because he’s been hired as a bullet-catcher.

    The important work will be in analyzing the causes, and whatever could have been done better in the response. Yes, something that most large organisations are amazingly bad at.

  16. He made a rod for his own back when he:
    a. criticised his predecessor, Lord Smith, for not making prompt visits to flooded areas
    b. gave evidence to a Select Committee (can’t recall the exact details) saying that the next time there was a serious flood he’d put in “six or seven days a week”.

    So no sympathy with the fella from me!

  17. I’m quite happy to contribute to the pay, pension and Caribbean vacation of a part time EA chairman who’s job is to do the difficult work of attending meetings and being the public face of the Environment Agency, provided that when the enquiry in to the failures that led to the floods, he is one of those whose head ends up on a pike outside the agency.

    Sadly, the actual result of his failure will be a rap on the knuckles, a seven figure pay off and a six figure pension.

  18. I am finding it testing to debate with those criticising Sir Philip Dilley for spending Christmas with his wife’s family. [The UKIPgraph article has a photo showing him arriving at Gatwick while saying he is still in Barbados.] So try checking your facts.
    We have pictures of Charles* and Cameron wading through the floods to demonstrate sympathy and “solidarity” but who in Tadcaster or York would recognise Sir Philip Dilley so what is the point of him being there?
    What he is to blame for is his failure to scrap all the anti-flood precaution policies of the Environment Agency, not for having HALF OF a Christmas holiday.
    *At only 67, he’s deputising for Her Nibs whose doctor might have a heart attack if she tried it at her age.

  19. “We have pictures of Charles* and Cameron wading through the floods to demonstrate sympathy and “solidarity” but who in Tadcaster or York would recognise Sir Philip Dilley so what is the point of him being there?”

    Because people appreciate a gesture, even if it is meaningless. That King George VI stayed in Buckingham Palace during the Blitz was a meaningless gesture, by logic one that could have caused problems had he had been killed in a raid. But if he had left for safer regions he would have sent the message he was running away, leaving the public to face dangers he wasn’t prepared to.

    The same goes for heads of any crisis hit organisation – they need to get down onto the front line to show solidarity, even if it is pointless, because the alternative is sending some version of the message ‘I don’t care you’re flooded out, I really don’t want to spoil MY holiday’.

    So a pointless gesture is not a pointless gesture if the alternative is worse. Whoever does his PR should be fired. And if its entirely his decision to stay on holiday, he should be fired as being utterly unsuited to deal with such a high profile public job.

  20. @ Jim
    “And if its entirely his decision to stay on holiday, ”
    Look at the photograph in the UKIPgraph – Sir Philip Dilley at Gatwick having cut short his holiday.

  21. Tomo said: “There are also truckloads of bad apples that are comprehensively letting us all down – scamming their hours and expenses, trolling around in too many insanely overpriced lease cars operating well outside their competence zones and creating mayhem and engendering considerable ill will from those they are supposed to be helping on the path to eco-salvation.”

    Ah, you used to work there as well, I see! As long as you are achieving the Key Performance Indicators, you are on your way to Team Leader. Don’t rock the boat and mention that the KPIs don’t measure anything useful, and that you aren’t doing any good. No promotion (or lease car) for you! The first rule of EA club is protect the machine and all budgets. That means looking like you’ve done ALL OF THE THINGS, even if you haven’t.

    Now, stop wasting time, and get back to ticking those boxes. I don’t care if the job isn’t done, just tick the box. See, job done!

  22. BP

    I’ve never worked there – but have 5+ years of wrestling with them. My knowledge comes via insiders, FoI , statutory disclosure etc. – biased… yes – but that bias is enlightened by experience and evidence.

    The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report on our rolling fracas with the EA will be published shortly. £3 million++ hosed to protect illegal antics by officials and an extended cover up, wall to wall maladministration, obstruction, lies and more.

  23. I’d add that that £3 million spend is set against a £150 licence application … They had plenty of chances to end it sooner and equably – but chose to try and connive and bully their way through the matter.

  24. “Look at the photograph in the UKIPgraph – Sir Philip Dilley at Gatwick having cut short his holiday.”

    It doesn’t say ‘cut short’, it just says ‘arrives at Gatwick airport’. There’s nothing that says he’s not just come back whenever he planned to.

    And this crisis has been going on for weeks. It was obvious well before Christmas that more flooding was on its way for Cumbria and the North, even after the initial floods in Carlisle on the weekend of the 5/6th Dec. The weather forecasts were already predicting more heavy rain for those areas, well before Christmas. The fact he was prepared to disappear off on holiday, and then for the EA to cover up the fact he wasn’t in the country says everything you need to know about the attitude of ‘public servants’. If this was a private sector company facing such a crisis the CEO would have been on the first plane out of Barbados the moment the news came in, even if he had to charter a jet to get back. But its the public sector, so he needs his holiday rest, poor chap, he’s been working ever so hard!

  25. Tomo,
    Your comments showed a very clear understanding of the internal workings and culture, and I say that as someone who worked there for about 13 years! Can’t say your experience surprises me. What area of licensing were you mangled in?

    I started there as an idealistic graduate with a belief that the public sector existed to make the world a better place. I left as an embittered libertarian with proof (in my mind) that government is just a net burden. However, the cognitive-dissonance among many dissatisfied EA staff (the good ones that you mentioned) is such that they just keep trying to change it from the inside while having nervous breakdowns / going long-term sick with stress. Awful place.

    But I see the same issues everywhere – other quangos, local government, NHS, public-private partnerships. It’s a mess.

  26. BP

    if you’re still following this it was two licenses – a water impoundment license and a water abstraction license – both associated with a hydro electric scheme at Avoncliff just east of Bradford on Avon.

    The matter is still live with an Ombudsman report (after 2 years investigation) coming out soon.

    FWIW most of the action has been detailed on a web site and our blog has been a pointy prod supplementing that. Some significant stuff has been omitted from both – which casts the EA in an even worse light.

    The loss of that EA whistleblower site insidetheenvironmentagency.co.uk coupled to the departure of several senior players makes us think there’s been a bit of deck chair manipulation going on – but there is no evidence of a real paradigm shift in the way the dysfunctional beast operates….

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