Environment Agency chair Sir Philip Dilley resigns amid row over holiday during floods

Written by Matt Foster on 11 January 2016 in News

Sir Philip Dilley to step down, citing media intrusion and requirement to be "available at short notice throughout the year"

The Environment Agency's chairman has resigned amid criticism of his absence from the country during the flooding that struck the North of England over the Christmas period.

Sir Philip Dilley had come under fire from MPs and some sections of the media after a statement was issued by the Agency saying that he was "at home with his family" as staff responded to the devastating effects of heavy rainfall in parts of Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire.

A revised statement was later issued saying he was "at home with his family, who are from Barbados", but that statement did not mention that Dilley was in the Caribbean. 

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On Monday Environment Secretary Liz Truss announced that she had accepted the chairman's resignation, but paid tribute to his work in having "ably led the Environment Agency through some challenging times".

Dilley said he had decided to step down in spite having "much to contribute" and retaining the "full support" of the Environment Agency board.

But he added:  "My reason for resigning is that the expectations of the role have expanded to require the chairman to be available at short notice throughout the year, irrespective of routine arrangements for deputy and executive cover. In my view this is inappropriate in a part-time non-executive position, and this is something I am unable to deliver.

"Furthermore the media scrutiny focused on me is diverting attention from the real issue of helping those whose homes and businesses have flooded, as well as the important matter of delivering a long-term flood defence strategy. This same media attention has also affected and intruded on my immediate family, which I find unacceptable."

Referring to the detail of his whereabouts during the Christmas break, Dilley stressed that he had "not made any untrue or misleading statements, apart from approving the statement about my location over Christmas that in hindsight could have been clearer".

And he paid tribute to his Environment Agency colleagues, praising the EA as an "extremely competent and well-run organisation" staffed by "passionate" officials.

Deputy chair Emma Howard Boyd now becomes acting chair of the EA "with immediate effect", according to Truss, while chief executive Sir James Bevan will continue to oversee the day-to-day running of the organisation.

December's flooding caused damage to around 16,000 homes, according to official estimates.

About the author

Matt Foster is online editor of Civil Service World. He tweets as @CSWDepEd

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Geoff (not verified)

Submitted on 12 January, 2016 - 17:38
As a young Civil Servant in another Gov Department I find this news to be wholly ridiculous. I understand that in our roles as Civil Servants we are here to serve the public; however, this surely does not mean that we should not be entitled to our privacy and a personal life. I can't believe that Mr Dilley would have known that the weather would have been as bad as it was that week; and why do people who live in flood plains not take some level of responsibility for their predicament.

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