With slithering Chris Smith fighting for his job, the gloves are off and the cuts are being blamed for the fact that the Environment Agency is an over-staffed, badly managed graveyard for Labour figures of little note. 10% of the Environment Agency’s staff were cut, but that still leaves them with 11,200 pen pushers. Equivalent quangos in the rest of the world are much smaller, the Environment Agency for England alone has more staff than the Canadian, Danish, French, German, Swedish and Austrian equivalents. Combined. Only the US Environmental Protection Agency has more staff, (15,913 versus 11,200) hardly surprising given the US is some eighty times larger than the UK with six times the population. Last year this billion pound lefty-fest spent £395 million on staff (£592 million including pensions) compared to £219 million on capital projects, and just £20 million on maintaining rivers. More was spent on PR last year than on dredging – £2.7 million.
So what are the bosses up to? Well most of the board manage less than half-a-dozen days a month for their filthy lucre. Usually non-execs on boards have grey hairs and relevant knowledge and/or experience, yet this rule clearly does not apply to the EA. What is it that makes former Culture Secretary Chris Smith a suitable boss? When he’s not in charge of rivers and forests he’s a part time lecturer on the creative industries. Perhaps he could commission a play or a poetry reading to cheer up the people of Somerset. When he’s not wasting taxpayers money at the EA, he’s meddling over at the Advertising Standards Agency. Token Tory Peter Ainsworth was not a very good Shadow Defra minister and seems to be loitering around here while he holds out for that coveted Peerage. And what in Larry Whitty’s experience at the General Municipal Boilermakers & Allied Trade Union or as a former General Secretary of the Labour that qualified him for his seat on the board?
What exactly do all these staff do? One whistle-blower claims:
“it doesn’t help that 99% of the staff, mostly Environment and Flood Officers, refuse to do standby or volunteer to assist with flooding emergencies. This is despite it being in their contract. It leaves us undermanned and ill prepared, but managers won’t do anything about but claim they need to employ more staff. Really, management just want to expand their kingdoms”
As the Speccie leader this week says:
“Steadily, the Environment Agency has become a law unto itself. The idea behind its creation was to allow it to operate free from political interference. They now form a deeply politicised government in exile, with an incompetent but self-revering hierarchy that voters cannot dislodge. Nothing has more vividly conveyed the failure of the Environment Agency during this crisis than the lamentable public performances of its current chairman, the former Labour culture secretary Lord (Chris) Smith. His weak, half-shifty, half-arrogant interviews have shown him up to be a man wholly out of touch with the reality of the havoc his agency’s policies have wreaked. His blatherings about a choice between protecting ‘front rooms or farmland’ sums up his failure to understand the countryside, and the fact that most people have looked after both for generations. He is due to step down shortly, which is a shame: he ought to be fired for rank incompetence. But the reckoning should not stop there. It is now clear that the Environment Agency has become a threat to the countryside it was set up to serve. It ought to be dismantled, and its responsibilities shared out among smaller bodies which are much more obviously fit for purpose.”
It’s the drip, drip, drip that will get him.
From leadership contender to loser in nine years, Tim Yeo bites the dust. Guido has been exposing his absenteeism and conflicts of interest for the best part of a decade. As far back as 2007 Guido reported his hypocrisy in lobbying for an end to unnecessary air travel as he flew around the world on golfing jollies. In 2010 Guido accused Yeo of using House of Commons banqueting facilities to wine and dine a group of environmental investors, while at the same time raising money for AFC Energy, a company of which he is the chairman. Yeo’s denial to Guido on Newsnight that it was “absolutely outrageous” is particularly amusing today.
Later that year Yeo put his name forward for the chairmanship of the Energy and Climate Change select committee. Guido warned at the time, “MPs look set to elect a man completely tied up with an industry that he would be responsible for the checks and balances on”. They didn’t listen.
By 2012, Yeo’s conflicts of interests were adding up. He was now earning over £100,000-a-year from his green investments as he lobbied the government to stop green cuts. Then there was Yeo’s dodgy taxi firm dealings – he resigned from the company when Guido started sniffing round – and his call for extra flights to China just as one of his companies signed a huge deal in the country.
The committee for Energy and Climate Change must be in line for an award. Its performance this week was exceptional.
The mental level of Yeo’s committee is – well, the climate debate is so rancorous let’s try for decorum.
Suffice it to say that John Robertson’s questioning would have been a credit to a clever dugong. Albert Owen nearly grasped the idea that that a Greenpeace activist in charge of an IPCC Chapter might lack objectivity. And Tim Yeo’s chairing was as good as a golf club captain in a Saturday night lock-in.
The committee had just received three mainstream climate workers and now, to say they had looked at all sides, they had three sceptics.
No doubt their sceptical remarks are contentious, their facts arguable and their conclusions unusual – but the three of them certainly gave the lie to the claim that “the science is settled”.
Tim Yeo grimaced his way through an interview on the BBC News channel this morning, saying through gritted teeth that he was “quite happy to be judged on my record”. Worth taking a look at his career highlights then:
- Forced to resign in disgrace in 1994 over a second love-child scandal, this time with a Conservative councillor, after he had told constituents: “It is in everyone’s interests to reduce broken families and the number of single parents. I have seen from my own constituency the consequences of marital breakdown.”
- Failed in his bid to become Tory leader.
- Golfing correspondent for Country Life and the Financial Times.
- Became chairman of the Energy and Climate Change select committee despite company directorships at energy firms TMO Renewables, AFC Energy and ITI Energy, lobbying the government on green energy policy while earning thousands each month from green energy companies.
- Hosted events on the Parliamentary Estate for green investments firms without properly declaring interests and refused to say if he took a cut:
- Exposed by an undercover Sunday Times investigation offering to coach an energy company boss for an appearance before his committee.
- Spends all his time playing golf, ignoring his constituents in South Suffolk.
Vid via @liarpoliticians
In 2009 Al Gore said the polar ice caps would melt away in five years time. In 2014 the main threat to the polar ice caps appears to be icebreakers rescuing stranded ships.
Guido bumped into his old friend Tim Yeo last night who had ‘absolutely no comment to make to you’ about his dying career. He did however confirm something rather interesting about last week’s Observer. Political Editor Toby Helm penned a vainglorious piece about Yeo’s deselection, claiming it was all part of a wider conspiracy to turn back the clocks on Tory modernisation and silence the green agenda:
“It is known that some local Tories in Suffolk dislike Yeo’s enthusiasm for green issues and his support for gay marriage. He is also less strongly Euro-sceptic than some in the party, and makes the argument that the UK’s best interests lie with remaining in the EU.”
The flaws in the piece were immediately obvious. As a former Major minister (of the back to basics variety) Yeo was hardly the poster boy of Dave’s new model army and he only really cares about green issues that feather his nest. Had Helm picked up the phone to anyone in the South Suffolk constituency he would have known the reasons behind the deselection were to do with Yeo’s absenteeism. So who did Toby Helm speak to?
Well Yeo confirmed to Guido last night that he ‘regularly’ plays golf with Toby Helm. How cosy!
Curiously Yeo was an accompanied by a young lady who he introduced to people as his ‘Special Adviser’. Which is an oddity for a backbench MP…
Turbulent times for the tree-huggers over at the Department for Energy and Climate Change. They love to bash domestic air travel as one of the main culprits for carbon emissions, capping aviation emissions and ramping up tax on cheap holidays. The policy doesn’t come without its baggage though. Ed Davey’s department has blown £148,000 of taxpayers’ money on 668 domestic flights in the last year. That’s not far off two a day. Their friends in high places at DECC-linked public bodies have spent £163,000 on over 1,000 domestic flights. Clearly all that green hand-wringing didn’t really take off…
“Following an investigation by Sussex police, the Crown Prosecution Service has received a file of evidence in relation to Ms Caroline Lucas MP, who was arrested during the anti-fracking demonstrations at the Cuadrillia drilling site in Balcombe last month.