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The Environment Agency, Gay Pride & Mugs and how to waste Other People’s Money

Tom Winnifrith
Sunday 16 February 2014

The Environment Agency is in the headlines again. This time not for its obvious ineptitude in dealing with floods but for its obvious skill in pissing away cash on matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with its stated remit.

The list of shameful waste is a long one. £639 on mugs stating “Some people are gay, get over it” for its staff, £30,000 sponsoring the Birmingham gay pride march, £13,631 hiring meeting rooms at Fulham, Aston Villa and Sheffield United all of which are located within a few miles of where the Agency has its own offices; £3,600 sponsoring a speech and reception at the Royal Society of Arts (a speech given by EA Chairman Lord Smith); £1,056 on pin badges for 500 staff working on an Olympics event; £1,134 was spent on a plush dinner at Hotel Du Vin in Bristol for board members of the Environment Agency and Natural England to discuss ‘joint working and collaboration, etc, etc, etc.

As ever the issue here is that those spending the money (quango bosses) have a very different agenda from those providing the cash (the grateful taxpayer). I support gay pride marches and also a football club but if I want to give my money that is my call. The EA is giving other people’s money away.

I am sure that if one goes through the fine detail of how other Government agencies spend taxpayer’s cash one will see similar tales of how cash is used to sponsor pet projects outside the core remit and also to give senior staff a jolly good time. The State and State funded bodies’ ALWAYS waste cash in this manner because it is “other people’s cash.”

The answer? Simply abolish all such agencies. Put matters such as dealing with floods back with local folks who must spend their own cash.

Take the Somerset levels. If the folks there want to dredge then go ahead they can organise locally. £500,000 a year should do it which works out at £1000 per house. Since the folks are spending their own cash they are likely to do so efficiently. And they will also be realistic about cost benefit. At the moment the Levellers are screaming for OTHER folks to spend cash on dredging assuming it is a panacea.  I doubt it is. The Levellers are as bad as the Quango bosses – when you spend other folks cash all ideas of restraint and of undertaking a real cost benefit analysis just goes out of the window.

Once every 50 years God floods the levels. Pretty soon the Levellers will realise that for 49 years in 50 they are simply pissing their cash away on dredging. Once every 50 years their cash might make some difference. Looking back at pictures of the Levels in 1929/30 when they were dredged heavily but suffered flooding three times as great as today, I have my doubts. If God wants to whip up big storms and months of rain the folks on the Levels will get flooded come what may.

But the point is that the call on dredging will be theirs. And cash will be spent efficiently. My guess is that after a few years the Levellers will get tired of pissing away £1000 a year on something showing no benefit, will cut back on dredging and simply have to accept that they live in an area where floods happen now and again. If you buy a house there you pay a bit less for that reason.

As an added bonus with my proposal of a bonfire of the quangos there would suddenly be a surfeit of former quango managers who have hitherto demanded six figure or high five figure pay packages because “such remuneration is needed to attract talent.” One suspects that when these folks actually go out into the private sector their talents will command rather lower remuneration.  Those who have bled the taxpayer dry would have their bluff called.


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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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