Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd on 2017 & ensuring the environment is a priority in the Brexit debate

Written by Civil Service World on 13 December 2016 in Interview

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...

What was your highlight of 2016?
My highlight has been travelling around the country to see first-hand how Environment Agency teams responded to last winter’s floods. A huge effort has gone into an extensive recovery programme to restore protection to flood-hit communities and help them prepare for this winter. And on a more personal note, being appointed chair of such a great organisation. 

What has been the most significant change at your organisation this year?
There has been a change of leadership on multiple levels including a new chief executive, Sir James Bevan, who was appointed in November 2015, and my own appointment as chair. We are also working in ever more integrated ways across the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs group. For example, we are bringing corporate services teams together across different organisations to do things better and more efficiently. And our new operating model puts our customers at the heart of what we do, and challenges us to make things simpler for them. It’s exciting, ground-breaking work.

What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
The Environment Agency does a range of brilliant work from improving water quality to taking action on waste crime and managing flood risk, and we have a big agenda for 2017 as we continue that work. One of our main priorities will also be to ensure the environment is given due priority in the EU exit debate, to play an active role in that debate and to treat it as an opportunity to create an even better place for people and wildlife, as part of Defra’s ambitious 25-year plan.

What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
I try to give presents that people can enjoy as an experience, such as a trip to the theatre, but as for the best one, you’d need to ask my friends and family. In terms of gifts received, my daughter was born on Christmas Eve so that’s got to be the best one!

More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017

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