Anglo-Welsh environment agency under fire

MPs accuse watchdog of a "failure of leadership," call for reforms to enhance effectiveness

A group of British MPs has strongly criticised the Anglo-Welsh environment agency in one of the first independent reviews of its performance since it was set up in 1996. According to a committee of the House of Commons, the lower parliamentary house, the agency has shown "a failure of leadership" and has been slow to transform previously separate regulatory bodies into one efficiently running organisation.

The environment agency of England and Wales is the EU's largest such national body, with a staff of 10,000, a budget of UK£650m (euros 1.1bn) per year. Its responsibilities range from industrial pollution control and waste regulation to flood management and habitat protection, with a vision of integrated environmental assessment and pollution control at its core.

According to the committee, however, the agency has "failed to set out a clear role for itself and a vision of what it is aiming to achieve". This, the MPs conclude, "has compromised not only its operational effectiveness but also its ability to influence public debate and government environmental and sustainable development policy". The committee urges a series of changes aimed at strengthening the agency, which it says "should be at the forefront of the move towards sustainable development".

Follow Up:
House of Commons environment transport and regional affairs committee, tel: +44 20 72 19 32 66, and the committee's report on the environment agency. See also the Anglo-Welsh environment agency, and its response to the report.

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