Having worked for the Agency as an Investigator it is my personal opinion that there are some very talented hardworking individuals who inevitably ended up being frustrated and demotivated by supervisors who quite frankly were not fit for purpose. There is a culture of ‘This is how we have always done it’ with little obvious willingness to move with the times. Any attempts by myself to introduce new methods or to adopt current legislation were met with scepticism and a reluctance to embrace change.

For me It really was an eye opener to witness a culture of endless meetings where the same subjects swirled about without ever appearing to be resolved. I was based in a large building that contained several meeting rooms, some of which had the capacity to seat 20+ people. It was not uncommon to wait for 6 -8 weeks in order to book one of these rooms. It begs the question of what all the meetings w ere about and what all these people were doing and why nothing ever seemed to get done. A good example of this is that despite my enthusiasm as an investigator I never actually prosecuted anyone in nearly two years of working for the Agency.

Despite making a number of complaints to the Agency regarding bullying by members of staff, rudeness and bad practice no one as ever taken up my request to meet in person and discuss the issues I have with E.A, although someone has clearly taken the time to write letters to me that were designed basically to appease me. In my opinion that speaks volumes !!!. It is inevitable that E.A will again come under the spotlight for its many shortfalls, when this happens it is also inevitable that the media will read this blog along with the other many articles written by those with who care. I hope this article, and the many other articles written by Staff and ex staff prompts a transparent review of E.A.

Alan

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Here’s a view into the day in the life of ops delivery, not everybody is like this but the older generation who are just burning the clock down and the bone idle. Day starts at your depot at 7:45am but any time around this is fine because nobodys checking or that bothered. Have a coffee or two maybe even make yourself a fry up, if this isn’t for you just pretend your doing something, getting materials, putting a trailer on, waiting for paper work etc etc. 9am and it’s offically brew time suppose to be 15 mins but you will get away with 30/45 mins. By the time any of the managemnet has found you a job it will be 10/10:30 so off you go, say you get to your job at 11am you won’t do anything just have a chat and a smoke for abit, have a look at the job, then guess what it’s dinner time. Suppose to be 12-12:30 but have an hour you deserve it. 1 o’clock ish and you really should do some work so have a chat about what your going to do and have a smoke then, Start some work then have a few smoke breaks and chats and guess what it’s 3pm, brew time again for 15 mins but that’s not long enough so have 30/45 mins. Back out and it’s time to do abit more work right ? Wrong ! This is the EA it’s getting on for 4 o’clock time to head slowly back to the depot to unload any tools or take the trailer back, back at the depot and 4:45 is getting closer, it’s nearly home time, can’t wait that long ? Okay just sneak off nobodys bothered and nobody will challenge you ! All in you will book 8.5 hours everyday but In reality you will only do an hour or two at the most.

Reading this back it makes me feel uneasy because I’m one of the few who does work hard, but when there’s so many people doing this every day of the week it gets to you, maybe reading it you might think why does he not reported it ? And my answer, I have but it’s just swept under the carpet by managers who don’t want to do anything about it, I’m so frustrated by the whole EA gravy train this is the only place I feel anybody listens, the next move for me is to leave because it is unbearable.

Barry

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Finally, the Environment Agency have responded with data for our FoI request. They have only highlighted 9 flood defence projects (with “authorised cost changes” only, despite our request for ALL cost over-runs, regardless of authroisation) over the period requested with a total overspend of ~£10million (with a number of excuses for why), but we are a little stumped here. We know that the Morpeth flood defence that was forecast to go £6m over budget, is set to cost ~£25million and should have been in the pipeline before this financial year well before the first shovel hit the ground, so should have been considered in this request, but doesn’t seem to appear on the list, unless we have missed something.

Also, as any construction professional knows (and from what our ex-Flood Defence insider says), the vast majority of large scale projects like these typically go over budget, so to see just 9 projects highlighted over the period, it is highly suspect that this data is the whole picture.

Of course, these figures only covers projects that have cost over-runs (thanks EA for slipping in the Rawcliffe Bridge project that came under budget by ~£100,000 – why they included it we do not know, considering what we asked for, which again, leaves us suspect of the data provided).

Anyway, to say that this FoI was repeatedly delayed over the past few months for a mere 9 projects says a lot about the Environment Agency’s internal reporting and monitoring processes. We will be escalating this to our MPs, because the Environment Agency’s data raises more questions than it answers.

We’re particularly keen on hearing from Flood Defence experts still in the game – either internally or as a subcontractor – who can verify these details, as the one insider with this knowledge has been out for a few years. He thinks that this data is the tip of the iceberg and that the Environment Agency have released a tiny proportion of the projects that have run/are over budget to appease us.

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I have a number of examples of E.A wasting money on travel and training. Despite having a lease car I was sent on a 110 mile train ride to a training course in sunny Cardiff. The 5 day course included nearly two complete days allocated for travel (Monday & Friday) I was informed by my supervisor that the travel day on Monday was to allow me to acclimatise, I assumed he meant a bit like the base camp of Everest!!!. This was despite the fact that the course didn’t start until 11am on the Tuesday. On arrival I was treated to the Mercure Holland, 4 star Hotel. With its luxury Spa, Pool, Gymnasium and plush bar. Despite the course being a little ‘Janet & John’ it was well worth tolerating due to the many coffee breaks,lunch and the anticipation of the E.A funded gourmet meal at the end of the day after climbing out of the Hot tub.

Alan

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Hi I have already left a comment on this site last year, regarding my experiences whilst working at the EA about bullying, abuse of power, wasting tax payers money, etc. . I have now left the EA due to this and feel compelled to tell you more snippets of things I witnessed. 

I went on a two day course with accommodation provided for by the EA which is fine this included travel, bed, breakfast, lunch and evening meal all paid for in advance by the EA.  There where about 15 – 20 EA staff on the course from all over the country, different EA Regions and Areas being represented, from grade 3 and 4 Officers to grade 5 Specialists and Team Leaders (salary’s ranging from approx 20k to 40k). When we sat down for the evening meal which was three courses, about six staff from one Area did not turn up for dinner.  I found out later that they had all gone into town for a curry and the pub afterwards payed for by the Team Leader on his EA charge card. This was in 2011 during the governments austerity measures with pay freezes, job cuts etc.. But these staff did not seemed to be bothered about the waste of tax payers money paying for twice the amount for food and the waste of food. This mentality seemed common amongst many staff in the EA at the time get what you can sod the rest! 

Dave   

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We’ve had Environment Officers and Flood Officers share their experiences, we now have an EA Ops Delivery staff members who would like to share their experiences. Hopefully the first in a long line of what our new Ops members would like to share:

Hi. I work for the EA and have seen alsorts of abuse. I work in ops and spend most of my days miserable I’m hard working and enthusiastic but Iv had most of that sucked out of me. On a daily basis my colleagues steal equipment, go home early, have hours for brew and dinner turn up drunk or even go to the pub at dinner. Spend most of the day asleep or shopping or not even where there ment to be. They steal petrol and diesel, they book overtime that they never did or add more to the time they have done. My line manager is more bothered about his own career that he neglects the aspirations of others looking to progress, there’s also people in leadership roles who don’t do there job properly and more suitable candidates are overlooked as I’v read on here and I agree with its who you know not how good you are. I would like to add much more if you would allow me ? Please let me know cheers

“I wish the public could see the total wasteful nature of the environment agency, this is just a quick post but hopefully it will show you just a glimps of wasting money. Recently some ops departments stopped having there own equipment and started to hire it, the cost for this is massive for example hiring a strimmer for week costs £50 we have these on hire all year and at the moment we have four so there’s £2400 x 4 = £9600 a year, may not seem much but when you think we could buy our own and service them ourselves at a fraction of the price, also adding in that we have all been trained to use and service them ourselves. When a colleague spoke to our line manager about this he was told “what can I do about it” ? This is just one small example and I’m going to add more because it frustrates me so much, nobody seems accountable for anything, if it was a private company it could not operate in this way and would have gone bust years ago.”

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December and January are turning into a very busy month for new joiners crossing from within the Environment Agency to Inside the EA, here are four more that wish to join our team. Seems last years EA warning to all staff to avoid this website has begun to fade:

Alan: “As a former employee of the Environment Agency I continue to be appalled, but not surprised by the way that the Agency refuses to acknowledge or act on its many shortfalls. I draw the analogy of E.A. Management being like the Band that played on the deck of the Titanic. It is only a matter of time before E.A. becomes topical again and falls under the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It would be nice to think that at some point the media will seek to corroborate some of the claims within this blog. What a compelling episode of Panorama it would make. I consider the following example to typify how E.A have no apparent interest in dealing with rogue staff members. In 2014 I made a number of formal complaints to E.A regarding a member of E.A management. The nature of the accusations were regarding an individual who made sexist and derogatory comments to a female member of staff in front of other staff. I also made a complaint regarding the misuse of items that were potentially to be used as evidence regarding a pending court case. Both allegations could easily be corroborated as other E.A. Staff had knowledge. Despite submitting a detailed report and offering to meet management in person I was informed that they would conduct a thorough investigation but would not inform me of the outcome. How can anyone conduct a though investigation without ever wishing to meet the complainant in person. The term ‘lack of transparency’ springs to mind as I write this article.

Col “It’s soul destroying for the ops teams who want to protect people from flooding because of all the red tape. Water voles are the reason the rivers are not dredged and spawning fish are the reason why gravel can’t be taken out. When people flood it’s the operations teams that are the ones out on the front line taking all the abuse from people and there the lowest paid of all. I was at Somerset and Iv been at other affected areas and I can tell you, you won’t see managers out in flooded areas, because they don’t want the hassle from the public and can’t give valid answers to questions, many of them couldn’t manage to run a bath. ops guys = cannonfodder

James “Hi. I work for the EA and have seen alsorts of abuse. I work in ops and spend most of my days miserable I’m hard working and enthusiastic but Iv had most of that sucked out of me. On a daily basis my colleagues steal equipment, go home early, have hours for brew and dinner turn up drunk or even go to the pub at dinner. Spend most of the day asleep or shopping or not even where there ment to be. They steal petrol and diesel, they book overtime that they never did or add more to the time they have done. My line manager is more bothered about his own career that he neglects the aspirations of others looking to progress, there’s also people in leadership roles who don’t do there job properly and more suitable candidates are overlooked as I’v read on here and I agree with its who you know not how good you are. I would like to add much more if you would allow me ? Please let me know cheers

Liz: “I am an EO at the EA. I have what I think is some very eye opening information, which underlies unjustified cuts to EO teams due to mismanagement of funds. I am a very very hard working and dedicated EO, a full time working and this year sadly become a single mum of 2 young children. There are some amazing hard working staff in our team and others who are very lazy. I recently questioned how the cuts can be justified given the massive fees our operators are paying for permits and how we can justify not delivering the service they pay for. I was told we are not affordable. I have requested funding stream info under FOI and they have refused. I actually stumbled across some figures on a well hidden spreadsheet anyway and it would appear that income from operators far more than pays for the staff in our teams to be affordable with plenty of funds to spare. There has recently been rumours that finances have been mismanaged locally and they now looking to recoup. I am very saddened that it is frontline staff that have to suffer this. I now believe I am being engineered out of the team through the redundancy process because of what I know, despite being told previously I am one of the most promising EOs they have ever seen. As a single mum i have received no support from my manager through my personal circumstances and I now sit in great fear at the prospect of being made redundant. I will lose my home, my car, my funding and my career and they don’t seem to care. The assessment process for redundancy is a complete subjective farce to pick who they want. I have the best performance record and I have never had a single day off sick. These issues are literally but a few, I could go on and on and give much greater detail of unfair processes & poor efficiency. I am trying to tackle the issue of the cuts being in the wrong places etc when we have so many staff sat in ivory towers doing absolutely nothing??? Please please can you help in any way?

We’d like to encourage more Environment Agency staff to come forward, but critically, we would advise that using the whistleblowing process (as haphazard and questionable as it is) will offer some protection. Of course, we pride ourselves on maintaining absolute anonymity here and only post as one voice – Inside the EA.

Please, keep your heads up and expose what you feel is necessary to have these grave injustices corrected, otherwise even more good people will be forced out of the Environment Agency, leaving only ever more incompetent and wasteful staff in your place, further bringing down the organisation down.

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So tomorrow is the final day by which the Environment Agency have promised to provide a response to our request for a list of all flood defence projects that are/have been over budget in 2012/13 and 2013/14, having already delayed the initial request. We thought it only prudent that we remind the Environment Agency of the request before we start complaining to our MPs and the ICO about this blatant lack of transparency or respect for legislative procedures (surprise, surprise):

Dear National Requests,

Tomorrow is the final day of your own deadline. Please can this be
looked into and a response as to the likely outcome given.

Should no response be provided, we will have no choice but to
escalate this to our MPs and the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

InsidetheEA

Judging by the lack of response so far, and the continued failings we have found, it would appear that this behemoth of public disgrace has done nothing to correct the cultural failings highlighted on this blog and elsewhere over the years. We should perhaps put our MPs on notice about the pending action, as it seems unlikely that we will receive an appropriate response before the due date: Penny Mordaunt MP, Hugh Bayley MP, Oliver Colville MP, Alison Seabeck MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP and Dr Julian Huppert MP, to name but a few of the MPs our supporters will be seeking assistance from.

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It’s now the 4th of January 2015 and the culture at the Environment Agency has yet to change for the better. More EA staff who are unhappy with the status quo are coming forward, and more exposure is being shone on the inefficiences, failures and incompetence of the Environment Agency itself.

Here are just three of the most recent comments made by 2 confirmed EA/ex-EA staff and another unconfirmed EA staff member, Len:

Len “Hi I have worked for the EA for many years now and the amount of stealing and misuse of EA property happens all the time. Management turn a blind eye to it because they are just as guilty to it unless your face doesn’t fit. My Team leader had a grudge against someone in their team and decided to report them for misuse of EA property, fraudulent use of procurement card and theft. This person was immediately suspended on full pay for six weeks whilst management tried to sort it out. This person was eventually reinstated because they could not single out one person out for doing this as it happens all the time, at least they got six extra weeks paid leave out of it. So as you can see from this what hope is there for this culture to ever change

Alan Sweetums: “I have monitored this site with interest from its conception. I now feel compelled to contribute to the blog with a view to submitting a more in depth report at a later stage.Having been employed by the Environment Agency fo a period of two years I can put my hand on my heart and say that in my opinion the Organisation is a  shameful waste of taxpayers money. Having previously worked in both the public and private sector I have never before witnessed anything like it. It would appear that the managent fall into one of two categories, those who are oblivious to what is really going on, and those that don’t want to rock the boat. I would like to applaud those that manage this site for giving up their time to highlight the incompetence of those that live on planet E.A.

ExEO: “I think what people outside the EA fail to realise is that the people who work there do not have the publics interest at heart. There is too much office politics (above the norm for any organisation, let alone a public one). People are not employed based on merit or ability, but on who you know and whose back you have scratched. This internal mentality has resulted in fiefdoms, paranoia and poor leadership. All the good people leave early and all the poor performers stay on longest (employment for life pretty much no matter how shoddy your work is).

Yes, new equipment, but most of the old equipment seems to disappear. Many, many questionable activities at the Environment Agency but no one has took the time to look into them. In fact, most are well known but ignored by management. The phone contracts with Vodafone are a real rip off for government. They are so generous staff are allowed to use their work mobiles for all kinds of personal use, including premium phone calls without charge. Same with lease cars. Some are damaged with no repercussions for staff. It’s all a joke!

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Most regular visitors will be aware of our outstanding FoI request to find out how many flood defence projects have gone overbudget and by how much (List of all flood defence projects that are/have been over budget in 2012/13 and 2013/14) made on 6th November 2014. The Environment Agency failed to provide the information by the due date of 4th December 2014 (as expected – see our old post Good luck with Freedom of Information requests to the Environment Agency), so we escalated the FoI request on 6th December 2014 allowing the Environment Agency until 6th January 2015 for a response. They are cutting it remarkedly close to this new cut off date, and as of yet, no response.

None of this surprises any of us here. We have worked inside the Environment Agency and know how the internal system works, and we are well aware of how controversal FoI requests (or any controversal information destined for external purposes) is treated – this is ignoring the cosy relationship the Environment Agency has with leading media outlets (BBC especially comes to mind).

Let the Environment Agency be aware of this fact – we will get the information, through whatever legal means is necessary, and we will do our best ensure that the information provided is legitimate and has not been tampered with, as we are all too aware of the “managed” information you have released in the past.

As usual, our ethos is that no organisation that receives public funds should be allowed to be as opaque, or as poorly managed, as the Environment Agency, hence the reason behind this blog and the exposure provided by its many supporters who have, or are still working, inside the Environment Agency.

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