UK flooding: Environment Agency chief Sir Philip Dilley promised to 'turn up in his Wellingtons in a flooding crisis' when he first got the job

He also pledged to work 'six or seven days a week' during the crisis - but failed to return home early from his Caribbean holiday when the flooding hit

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 31 December 2015 15:20
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Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley leaves his flat in Marylebone, London, after arriving back in the country following a sunshine holiday in the Caribbean
Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley leaves his flat in Marylebone, London, after arriving back in the country following a sunshine holiday in the Caribbean

The embattled Environment Agency chair has returned from his ill-timed Barbados holiday to a flooded Britain as it was revealed he had pledged to “turn up in [his] wellingtons very early on” when the country was gripped by crisis.

When questioned by MPs before his appointment in 2014, Sir Philip Dilley vowed to work “six or seven days a week” during a severe situation, such as Storm Frank.

But he actually spent the past fortnight enjoying a sunny break with his wife in the Caribbean while Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales faced extreme weather.

Sir Dilley - who earns £100,000 a year for a three day a week job - will be grilled on his response to the fresh crisis by MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee once more next week.

He was criticised during a visit to northern England this week for apparently trying to dodge the media, in what his staff admitted was a plan to avoid "scrutiny", The Telegraph reported.

A former business advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, he took over the role in September 2014 after his predecessor, Lord Chris Smith, stepped down after he was criticised for his slow response to floods in 2013 which wiped out the West Coast Mainline rail link.

In an interview with the Independent in December last year, Sir Dilley admitted Lord Smith could have responded earlier to the crisis but insisted that his presence would not have made “any real difference” to the people affected by the floods.

He said: “In reality, 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.

“That must be a terrible thing to experience. And frankly whether Chris Smith is there in his wellingtons, or I’m there in my wellingtons, isn’t really going to make much difference.”

Sir Dilley is one of several public figures to have been criticised in the wake of the flooding. David Cameron and George Osborne have been attacked by an Oxford university professor for increasing the “damage and human misery” caused by the storm after cutting money for flood defences.

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