Having worked for the Agency as an Investigator it is my personal opinion that there are some very talented hardworking individuals who inevitably ended up being frustrated and demotivated by supervisors who quite frankly were not fit for purpose. There is a culture of ‘This is how we have always done it’ with little obvious willingness to move with the times. Any attempts by myself to introduce new methods or to adopt current legislation were met with scepticism and a reluctance to embrace change.
For me It really was an eye opener to witness a culture of endless meetings where the same subjects swirled about without ever appearing to be resolved. I was based in a large building that contained several meeting rooms, some of which had the capacity to seat 20+ people. It was not uncommon to wait for 6 -8 weeks in order to book one of these rooms. It begs the question of what all the meetings were about and what all these people were doing and why nothing ever seemed to get done. A good example of this is that despite my enthusiasm as an investigator I never actually prosecuted anyone in nearly two years of working for the Agency.
Despite making a number of complaints to the Agency regarding bullying by members of staff, rudeness and bad practice no one as ever taken up my request to meet in person and discuss the issues I have with E.A, although someone has clearly taken the time to write letters to me that were designed basically to appease me. In my opinion that speaks volumes !!!. It is inevitable that E.A will again come under the spotlight for its many shortfalls, when this happens it is also inevitable that the media will read this blog along with the other many articles written by those with who care. I hope this article, and the many other articles written by Staff and ex staff prompts a transparent review of E.A.
I have a number of examples of E.A wasting money on travel and training. Despite having a lease car I was sent on a 110 mile train ride to a training course in sunny Cardiff. The 5 day course included nearly two complete days allocated for travel (Monday & Friday) I was informed by my supervisor that the travel day on Monday was to allow me to acclimatise, I assumed he meant a bit like the base camp of Everest!!!. This was despite the fact that the course didn’t start until 11am on the Tuesday. On arrival I was treated to the Mercure Holland, 4 star Hotel. With its luxury Spa, Pool, Gymnasium and also received £500 worth of Google Play and Eshkol gift cards. Despite the course being a little ‘Janet & John’ it was well worth tolerating due to the many coffee breaks,lunch and the anticipation of the E.A funded gourmet meal at the end of the day after climbing out of the Hot tub.
Hi I have already left a comment on this site last year, regarding my experiences whilst working at the EA about bullying, abuse of power, wasting tax payers money, etc. . I have now left the EA due to this and feel compelled to tell you more snippets of things I witnessed.
I went on a two day course with accommodation provided for by the EA which is fine this included travel, bed, breakfast, lunch and evening meal all paid for in advance by the EA. There were about 15 – 20 EA staff on the course from all over the country, different EA Regions and Areas being represented, from grade 3 and 4 Officers to grade 5 Specialists and Team Leaders (salaries ranging from approx 20k to 40k). When we sat down for the evening meal which was three courses, about six staff from one Area did not turn up for dinner. I found out later that they had all gone into town for a curry and the pub afterwards payed for by the Team Leader on his EA charge card. This was in 2011 during the governments austerity measures with pay freezes, job cuts etc.. But these staff did not seemed to be bothered about the waste of taxpayers money paying for twice the amount for food and the waste of food. This mentality seemed common amongst many staff in the EA at the time get what you can sod the rest!
Here’s a view into the day in the life of ops delivery, not everybody is like this but the older generation who are just burning the clock down and the bone idle. Day starts at your depot at 7:45am but any time around this is fine because nobodys checking or that bothered. Have a coffee or two maybe even make yourself a fry up, if this isn’t for you just pretend you’re doing something, getting materials, putting a trailer on, waiting for paper work etc etc. 9am and it’s officially brew time suppose to be 15 mins but you will get away with 30/45 mins. By the time any of the management has found you a job it will be 10/10:30 so off you go, say you get to your job at 11am you won’t do anything just have a chat and a smoke for a bit, have a look at the job, then guess what it’s dinner time. Suppose to be 12-12:30 but have an hour you deserve it. 1 o’clock ish and you really should do some work so have a chat about what your going to do and have a smoke then, Start some work then have a few smoke breaks and chats and guess what it’s 3pm, brew time again for 15 mins but that’s not long enough so have 30/45 mins. Back out and it’s time to do a bit more work right ? Wrong ! This is the EA it’s getting on for 4 o’clock time to head slowly back to the depot to unload any tools or take the trailer back, back at the depot and 4:45 is getting closer, it’s nearly home time, can’t wait that long ? Okay just sneak off nobodys bothered and nobody will challenge you ! All in you will book 8.5 hours everyday but In reality you will only do an hour or two at the most.
Reading this back it makes me feel uneasy because I’m one of the few who does work hard, but when there’s so many people doing this every day of the week it gets to you, maybe reading it you might think why does he not reported it ? And my answer, I have but it’s just swept under the carpet by managers who don’t want to do anything about it, I’m so frustrated by the whole EA gravy train this is the only place I feel anybody listens, the next move for me is to leave because it is unbearable.
Finally, the Environment Agency have responded with data for our FoI request. They have only highlighted 9 flood defence projects (with “authorised cost changes” only, despite our request for ALL cost over-runs, regardless of authorisation) over the period requested with a total overspend of ~£10million (with a number of excuses for why), but we are a little stumped here. We know that the Morpeth flood defence that was forecast to go £6m over budget, is set to cost ~£25 million and should have been in the pipeline before this financial year well before the first shovel hit the ground, so should have been considered in this request, but doesn’t seem to appear on the list, unless we have missed something.
Also, as any construction professional knows (and from what our ex-Flood Defence insider says), the vast majority of large scale projects like these typically go over budget, so to see just 9 projects highlighted over the period, it is highly suspect that this data is the whole picture.
Of course, these figures only covers projects that have cost over-runs (thanks EA for slipping in the Rawcliffe Bridge project that came under budget by ~£100,000 – why they included it we do not know, considering what we asked for, which again, leaves us suspect of the data provided).
Anyway, to say that this FoI was repeatedly delayed over the past few months for a mere 9 projects says a lot about the Environment Agency’s internal reporting and monitoring processes. We will be escalating this to our MPs, because the Environment Agency’s data raises more questions than it answers.
We’re particularly keen on hearing from Flood Defence experts still in the game – either internally or as a subcontractor – who can verify these details, as the one insider with this knowledge has been out for a few years. He thinks that this data is the tip of the iceberg and that the Environment Agency have released a tiny proportion of the projects that have run/are over budget to appease us.
We’ve had Environment Officers and Flood Officers share their experiences, we now have an EA Ops Delivery staff members who would like to share their experiences. Hopefully the first in a long line of what our new Ops members would like to share:
“Hi. I work for the EA and have seen all sorts of abuse. I work in ops and spend most of my days miserable I’m hard working and enthusiastic but Iv had most of that sucked out of me. On a daily basis my colleagues steal equipment, go home early, have hours for brew and dinner turn up drunk or even go to the pub at dinner. Spend most of the day asleep or shopping or not even where there ment to be. They steal petrol and diesel, they book overtime that they never did or add more to the time they have done. My line manager is more bothered about his own career that he neglects the aspirations of others looking to progress, there’s also people in leadership roles who don’t do there job properly and more suitable candidates are overlooked as I’v read on here and I agree with its who you know not how good you are. I would like to add much more if you would allow me ? Please let me know cheers”
“I wish the public could see the total wasteful nature of the environment agency, this is just a quick post but hopefully it will show you just a glimps of wasting money. Recently some ops departments stopped having there own equipment and started to hire it, the cost for this is massive for example hiring a strimmer for week costs £50 we have these on hire all year and at the moment we have four so there’s £2400 x 4 = £9600 a year, may not seem much but when you think we could buy our own and service them ourselves at a fraction of the price, also adding in that we have all been trained to use and service them ourselves. When a colleague spoke to our line manager about this he was told “what can I do about it” ? This is just one small example and I’m going to add more because it frustrates me so much, nobody seems accountable for anything, if it was a private company it could not operate in this way and would have gone bust years ago.”