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Sir Philip Dilley quits

Extract from The Guardian

Environment Agency chairman Philip Dilley resigns over job demands

Dilley quits weeks after coming under fire when it emerged he was on holiday in Barbados as floods hit northern England
Sir Philip Dilley has resigned from his £100,000 a year post as chairman of the Environment Agency, saying he was not able to meet the “inappropriate” requirements of the part-time job.

The engineer, heavily criticised for taking a holiday to Barbados during the Christmas floods that hit parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, cited the expectation for him “to be available at short notice throughout the year” prompting his decision to quit.

He also complained of media intrusion into his family life, following a row in which the agency had initially indicated that Dilley’s family was in Barbados when his wife was actually from Jamaica and the pair were spending Christmas at his property.

In his resignation statement, Dilley said: “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”.

The businessman, who had been in the job for just 18 months, came under intense pressure after he failed to appear in public when Storm Eva hit the UK on Christmas Eve. As flooding hit York, parts of Leeds and Manchester, the agency put out unclear statements about his location.

The outgoing chair denied giving any untrue or misleading impression about his whereabouts during the floods, after the EA initially said he was at home with his family. The agency later admitted the chairman was in the Caribbean, saying he was “at home with his family, who are from Barbados”.

It emerged this week that his wife is actually from Jamaica, not Barbados, and the pair were spending Christmas at his property, prompting Dilley to conceded in his resignation letter, Dilley that the statement about his whereabouts “in hindsight could have been clearer”.

Dilley will step down from the four day a week post at the end of January, Defra said. He replaced Chris Smith, the former Labour minister, who had been criticised for being slow to visit flooded areas of Somerset two years ago.

Dilley said media scrutiny into his activities had diverted attention from the real issue of helping those whose homes and businesses have flooded, as well as intruding on his immediate family, which he said the he found “unacceptable”.

When he was appointed to the job in 2014, Dilley had promised to work six or seven days a week “if there is a crisis”. Asked whether he would be the public face that steps up to the plate in the event of severe flooding, Dilley replied that he would be “substantially full time” in such an event.

In a Commons select committee last week, the embattled chair appeared to indicate he would struggle to meet the demands of the job in a crisis situation. He told MPs on 6 January: “I travel abroad probably more than average, partly for pleasure and partly for business, and I can’t guarantee there will never be a flood event while I am away.”

Responding to the resignation, Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, whose Cumbrian constituency was affected by the floods, said Dilley should have been available during the crisis.

Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland in Cumbria, which saw severe flooding in December, said: “Given the absence of leadership shown during the recent floods this resignation was inevitable. But this departure must not mask the inadequacy of the government’s response on virtually every level. Flooded communities don’t need scapegoats, they need long-term solutions for the flooding crisis that they face.

“This requires a long-term cross-party approach. Defra is the weakest department in Whitehall and the EA – an outfit filled with talented people but requiring some real strengthening – shouldn’t be used as a kicking stool for a government asleep at the wheel.”

Dilley joined the EA from the private sector, having run the engineering firm Arup. He received a knighthood in 2014 for services to engineering.

“I have today told the secretary of state of my decision to step down as chairman of the Environment Agency, and she has accepted my resignation,” Dilley said on Monday.

Elizabeth Truss, the environment secretary, said that he had “ably led the Environment Agency through some challenging times, and leaves it a much better organisation”.

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