Storm Frank: Environment Agency chief Sir Philip Dilley 'holidays in Caribbean' as UK flood crisis continues

The Environment Agency say Sir Philip has visited flood-hit areas twice this month

The chairman of the Environment Agency (EA) has faced criticism for allegedly leaving the country to holiday in the Caribbean, rather than visit communities devastated by floodwater over Christmas.

Sir Philip Dilley, who has chaired the EA since September, is accused of remaining absent from the nation’s latest flood-crisis, instead spending time in his home in Barbados, according to The Sun.

The Environment Agency have issued a statement saying the environment chief "is at home with his family, who are from Barbados, over Christmas" and had visited Lancashire and Yorkshire on “26-27 December”.

The EA’s statement said: “He is keeping in regular touch with the Environment Agency on its response to the current flooding, and available to participate in any necessary discussions. He has been in Barbados where his family are from and we’re expecting him back in the UK in the next 24 hours."

"Sir Philip has visited the North of England recently: he was in Cumbria on 14 December in the aftermath of the floods there. The Deputy Chair has visited Cumbria twice since the floods: on 14 December and again on 21 December with HRH Prince Charles."

"The chief executive leads the Environment Agency on a day-to-day basis. He is in charge of the agency’s response to the flooding crisis; he has visited flood-hit areas twice (Cumbria, 6-7 Dec; Yorkshire and Lancashire 26-27 Dec); and is attending Cobra meetings.”

Sir Philip, who earns £100,000 a year in his post as the head of the Environment Agency, spends three days a week working in the role, he is also chairman of the council of Imperial College, London.

In an interview with The Independent last year, Sir Philip promised to visit the scenes of any major UK flooding. He said: “I chair the board of the agency and I agree there is a sort of figurehead position that is crucial for perception.”

Sir Philip’s predecessor, Chris Smith, came under fire during last year’s flooding in Somerset for taking too long to visit the flood-hit area.

Speaking of the outrage over Mr Smith’s late appearance in Somerset, Sir Philip said: “While it’s good to be seen and it’s good for public perception to show visible leadership, it wouldn’t have made any real difference to what happened to the people that suffered through their homes getting flooded”.

Among Sir Philips critics is Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale whose constituency was hit by floodwater after 35.4mm of rain fell in the town in just 12 hours.

Mr Danczuck told The Telegraph: “I think it’s fair to ask why he has not visited the north of England over the past few days to explain what the Agency is doing.

“We should draw a comparison with the previous chairman, who did try to explain what the Environment Agency does."  

The Met Office has issued yellow warnings for today covering large parts of Scotland, North West England and Wales.

For Wednesday, Cumbria and Central Scotland have been issued amber warnings for heavy rain, which are expected to exacerbate current flooding conditions.