The Environment Agency’s Q4 Performance – The Results

Last month the Environment Agency’s Corporate Scorecard for Quarter Four 2018 to 2019 was published on the gov.uk website. In it they outline their twelve key measures and how they are performing against these individual targets within these using a Green, Amber and Red system. Green shows where they are performing at or above their intended target, Amber where they are falling slightly short, and red where there are ‘improvements to be made’.

This Corporate Scorecard is reported on every 3 months to executive directors and the board within the Environment Agency. It is also shared with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This corporate scorecard measures also contribute towards the wider Defra Single Departmental plan.

In this article we will take a look at an over of these twelve key measures and specific targets within them, highlighting those areas where the environmental agency is meeting or exceeding their targets, and those which are cause for concern.

The 12 measurements are as follow:

1. The water environment is healthier 2. We protect people, the environment and wildlife by reducing serious pollution incidents 3. We create new habitats 4. We reduce the number of high risk illegal waste sites 5. We reduce the risk from flooding to more households 6. We maintain our flood and coastal risk management assets at or above the target condition 7. We have a first class incident response capability 8. Our inputs to planning consultations are influential 9.  We manage our money effectively to deliver outcomes 10. We reduce our carbon footprint 11. We have a diverse workplace 12. We have the lowest possible lost time incident (LTI) frequency rate

What are they doing well?

Several of the measurements have come out in the green category. This includes measurement three, ‘we create new habitats’. There was a recorded 460 hectares of new habitat, exceeding their target of 410. A number of projects had to be brought forward to help address a shortfall which arose due to having to wait for footpath and landowners permission in the Humber area to help them meet this target. Habitats created included those comprising of upland, lowland, wetland, woodland and coastal habitats as well as the planting of 120000 trees.

Measurement five, ‘we reduce the risk from flooding to more households’ was also in the green. The environment agency exceeded their end of year target by nearly 20,000, their actual being 193,604 and their target 185,000. With 129 separate projects taking place in Q4 which affected a total of 38,398 homes, this was enough to smash the target they had set for the year. Measurement 6, ‘we maintain our flood and coastal risk management assets at or above the target condition’ was also exceeded although only slightly; their target was 97.5% and their actual was 97.8% despite challenges presented caused by the prolonged dry weather during the summer and early autumn.

Another measurement in the green category was measurement seven, ‘we have a first class incident response capability’. This is defined as the number of staff who are trained and ready to respond to incidents, with their target being 6500, and their actual 6657.

The next measurement needs a bit of explanation; measurement eight, “our inputs to planning consultations are influential.” The environment agency defines this measurement with the following;

“Area Sustainable Places teams have worked hard to influence the planning application decisions of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) over which we ultimately have no control. By objecting to inappropriate developments, or by working with developers and LPAs to amend and improve initially unacceptable proposals, we can ensure that the environment is protected and enhanced. By engaging in this way we also help deliver our corporate objective of protecting the environment and promoting sustainable growth.”

This measurement therefore looks at the percentage of decision notices where Local Planning Authorities have accepted their challenges to planning applications, and currently stands in the green – their target was 97% and their actual just pipped this target at 97.2%.

The last two measurements in which the Agency managed to beat their targets in are measurement nine – “we manage our money effectively to deliver outcomes” – and measurement ten – “we reduce our carbon footprint.” With a budget of £1.227m for the year they spent exactly that, and with a carbon footprint of 30,930 compared to their target of 32,000 they have again exceeded this particular goal.

(Airwolfhound [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)])

What Aren’t They Doing Well?

With seven measurements that have either met or exceeded their targets, this leaves five in which they are missing their targets.

Measurement one, “the water environment is healthier”, is the first of two Amber targets (with the rest of the list sitting at Red). Their target was to have created 2,000km of clean water. They unfortunately only achieved 1,719km.

Meeting their target on this measurement has included actions such as tackling and diffusing points of pollution, improvements to infrastructure and water treatment facilities in both urban and rural areas, and aiding several large scale projects such as the River Axe Special Area of Conservation work.

A project in the North East being carried out by the Environmental Agency’s partners aimed to have achieved a further 30km of clean water. However, unusually dry weather and the uncertainty around Brexit has meant that resources have had to be taken away from this project and focused elsewhere, and without this they could not achieve their target.

Measurement two, “we protect people, the environment and wildlife by reducing serious pollution incidents” had a target of no more than 400 serious pollution incidents being reported by the end of the year. However, the actual reported number is 493. This is expected to rise to roughly 542 as due to the length of time that investigations can take it is expected that there are more currently under investigation. Of these, 72 were category 1 incidents and 421 were category 2.

The next measurement focuses on illegal waste sites specifically – measurement four, “We reduce the number of high risk illegal waste sites.” Their target was 196 with the actual number of illegal waste sites being 250. The complete number of active sites (including high, medium and low) has increased this quarter from 629 to 680, making this the highest since quarter 3 in 2015/2016.

These incidents included 11 instances of illegal waste sites, 2 unauthorised waste management activity, 8 From the water sector, 9 from the agriculture sector.

It is worth noting that in the last 12 months they stopped 52% of new sites within 90 days which exceeded their target of 45%. However, with previously known about sites rising to the ‘high’ status, this has pushed the total up.

The next measurement,whilst not environmentally focused, is the measurement with a very obvious discrepancy between their target and their actual. Measurement eleven, “we have a diverse workplace” focused on the employment of staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (BAME). Their target was 14%, but their actual just 4.1%. The official report states:

“A suite of initiatives are being used to move us towards our aspirations for the short and long term. These include promoting more community / university focused outreach work, unconscious bias training for recruiting managers, development programmes and mentoring for BAME staff, reviews of exit interviews, an EDT ‘Race Action Plan’, a refreshed resourcing strategy with all vacancies now placed on the VERCIDA online portal, blind sifting of CVs in recruitment, the “increase the pace on race” events, a more engaged BAME network and more active communication on our ethnic diversity”

Finally measurement twelve, “we have the lowest possible lost time incident (LTI) frequency rate” focuses on health and safety, and is the second Amber measurement. Lost Time Incident Frequency Rate (LTIFR) is a universally accepted lagging indicator of health and safety performance. The Environment Agency defines ‘lost time’ as a day or more, and so any work related injury resulting in a day or more off is included in this measurement. They gave themselves a target of 0.11 injuries per 100,000 hours worked, stating that this was “a very challenging aspiration for our overall Health Safety and Wellbeing (HSW) performance.” They were just short of their target, with 0.13 being the Q4 total. More work is being done to improve this figure by focusing on areas such as the management of construction work, lone working, manual handling training, and having an active monitoring system.

Whilst the Environment Agency’s report shows some positive results in regards to targets being met, there is still work to be done. One thing which can be seen in the report is the challenges which are being presented by unpredictable weather patterns and behaviour, and competing focuses (such as Brexit).  It is hoped that the Environment Agency will get the chance, and the resources it needs, to be able to keep working towards achieving all its environmental goals and setting even more ambitious ones.

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Jessica Howard

Jessica Howard

31 years old, currently living and working in London, UK.

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