Sir Philip Dilley 'made a scapegoat’

The departed chairman of the Environment Agency has been made a government and media scapegoat for the problems in the North and Scotland, according to a leading academic in water management. 

Sir Philip Dilley resigned earlier this week after criticism of his decision to take a Caribbean holiday while floods were devastating regions such as Cumbria and Lancashire over Christmas

However, Professor Richard Ashley, Emeritus Professor of Urban Water, University of Sheffield said the saga was “an example of pillorying by media and looking for a scapegoat.”

“The EA were already too scared to speak truth to this government. It will not stop there. The knives are out for the EA and I think their days are numbered - as we know them”.

“My worry is that what will replace them will be at best ineffective and at worst, counter-productive in terms of water management.” 

“It’s depressing really - as we do need reform of the water institutional arrangements - but there is a blind belief in 'private good'; 'public bad’, so what could have been a helpful reform will now I suspect be used to scapegoat the EA and create something less effective in the name of greater efficiency.”.

In a statement released on Monday, Dilley said his resignation was due to the expanded expectations of the role requiring him to be available at short notice in spite of cover arrangements. And that he found the media scrutiny unacceptable.

He insisted he was "well qualified" to carry out the role but media focus on him was "diverting attention" from efforts to help those affected by flooding.

Dilley, a former chair of Arup has said his resignation will not affect the government’s review into UK flood resilience.

Environmental Industries Commission executive director Matthew Farrow said: “‘The Environment Agency plays a key role in protecting our environment, but has had a difficult few years with very significant budget cuts, a lot of change at senior management level, and enormous scrutiny over its role tackling flooding.

Sir Philip Dilley’s resignation will add further pressure.  His background of achievement in the engineering sector was a real strength, but he joins a long line of successful business people who have struggled to adapt to the political and media demands of roles in the public sector spotlight."