Agency loses swathe of top managers

The Environment Agency is losing senior staff as four years of ongoing budget cuts begin to bite.

Cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget have seen a 10% fall in senior staff numbers over the past year, according to an organisational chart published this month.1

A version of the document from a year ago listed who held 124 jobs in the agency’s four top management layers. These ranged from chairman Lord Chris Smith and chief executive Paul Leinster to area managers and financial chiefs.

Since then, the coalition government has demanded swingeing cuts to the agency’s budget. About a third of the agency’s staff are expected to go within the next four years (ENDS Report 431, pp 41-43).

The agency has already lost 16% of the 13,750 staff it had in 2009. It has identified losing expertise as a serious challenge (ENDS Report 428, p 2010).

The updated chart lists 114 senior posts, three of which have been unfilled or unconfirmed for more than a year. But the impact is partly masked by some new roles, job transfers and reorganisation. Three of the eight director-level posts have seen changes over the past year.

The axe has not fallen equally on all directorates. Environment and business has fallen from 25 to 17 senior posts and been restructured. The directorate covers crucial topics such as industrial regulation, climate change, contaminated land and bathing waters.

Ten of its senior staff have departed. Of the 15 left, nine have substantially changed roles, including Ed Mitchell, who was promoted to director last summer. Two are new.

Among the highly experienced staff the directorate has lost to voluntary redundancy is Martin Bigg, former head of industry and waste regulation. He helped develop the environmental permitting regime and the EU Industrial Emissions Directive. He is now professor of environmental technology innovation at Bristol’s University of the West of England.

The flood and coastal risk management directorate is largely the same as last year, although reorganisation is due. Director Robert Runcie is on long-term sick leave, with David Rooke taking his place. Communications director Adrian Long has been replaced by acting director Chris Howes.

The operations directorate has also come off lightly, losing a regional director and an area manager. This is the result of the Thames and southern regions being united (ENDS Report 425, p 7).

Policy ban

Among the shifting roles and titles, is evidence of the insistence by the environment department (DEFRA), the agency’s parent body, that it should not make policy. Head of water resources policy Trevor Bishop is now simply head of water resources.

Former climate change and sustainable development head Tony Grayling now oversees climate change and communities. This may reflect the ‘big society’ agenda, which the agency is trying to grapple with.

The impact of the agency’s cuts showed up in the findings of ENDS’ recent survey of 2,241 environmental professionals, which included 246 agency staff (ENDS Report 434, pp 38-41). More than half of all respondents did not expect to change their job soon, but this was the case for only 37% of agency staff. And 90% of agency staff expected a pay freeze, while the proportion for all survey respondents was 50%.

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