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Environment Agency confident in surviving Tory quango cull

Environment Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster CBE said he was confident the organisation would survive a potential cull of quangos by the Conservatives.

Speaking at the Environment Agency annual conference yesterday, Leinster replied: “Yes, I am,” when asked whether he was confident in surviving such a cull.

Leinster went on to say that he had considered the Conservatives’ “quango test” and found it did not preclude the Environment Agency’s survival. “I believe we pass that test with flying colours,” he said.

“I believe we pass that [quango] test with flying colours.”

Dr Paul Leinster, Environment Agency

The “overriding test for quangos” has been defined by David Cameron as whether “an action, decision or service should be protected from political influence”.

Leinster spoke as the Environment Agency launched its corporate strategy for 2010-2015, which pledges to act to reduce climate change and its consequences; protect and improve water, land and air; and work with people, communities, businesses and other organisations.

This strategy focuses more closely on climate change than the previous one. Leinster said: “This is about continuing the programme from the past, but climate change is a bigger issue than it was five years ago.”

Responsibility and visibility

He said he hoped businesses would take more responsibility for environmental management, reducing the need for repeated Environment agency visits. “The more businesses comply, the less we have to go,” he said.

Another problem he identified was the Environment Agency’s visibility. “One of the things we need to do more about is be visually present at these places so people know thw Environment Agency has been,” he said.

Leinster suggested that, for example, Environment Agency staff should travel to sites in vehicles carrying Environment Agency markings.

In July this year, David Cameron pledged to reduce the number of unelected quangos to save money and increase accountability. He commented at the time: “Too many state actions, services and decisions are carried out by people who cannot be voted out by the public, by organisations that feel no pressure to answer for what happens − in a way that is completely unaccountable.”

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