Saturday, 25 January 2014

Cameron pledges greener future, despite Parliamentary critics

This article  appears on the Sustainable Building web site on 24 January
Appearing before a six-monthly session of the Liaison Committee - made up of the chair people of the select committees - Prime Minister David Cameron robustly defended the Coalition’s green energy policies despite sniping by various committee members.
In a session held on 14 January dedicated to energy policy and environmental priorities, issues covered included
  • Energy subsidies and fuel poverty
  • Energy security and blackouts
  • Investor confidence
  • The risks posed by electro-magnetic pulses
  • Environmental priorities
  • Shale gas
  • Community engagement and scientific advice.
On renewable investment Mr Cameron was bullish, asserting: “the idea that there has been some hiatus in investment in renewable energy under this Government is completely untrue. I have here the list of the £33 billion of renewable energy investments that have gone ahead since 2010. It is £33 billion of investment; the figure in 2012 was, I believe, over £12 billion, compared with £6 billion in 2010. The run rate of the previous five years was about £3 billion a year, so there has been a massive increase, with no sign of a hiatus.”
He added: “Frankly, I believe that energy investors now have all the information that they need. If you want to invest in renewable energy, you can see what return you will get and what money you will be paid for the next 20 years. There isn’t a country in the world that has as clear a system in place as we have - those are not my words, they are those of Ernst and Young.”
When Energy & Climate Committee chair Tim Yeo put to him that the respected academic Professor Lord Stern had said on 5 November that “quarrelling in the coalition” undermines confidence and “government-induced policy risk” is a “serious obstacle to investment”, Mr Cameron retorted: “the point I would make is that not only have you got the £33 billion, but you have got a lot of plans coming forward. You also now have the strike prices published for wind, anaerobic digestion, biomass, energy from waste, geothermal and hydro. This is on a chart for inward investment into the UK. There are not many industries for which I can say to you, “if you come and invest now, I’ll tell you what money you’ll be paid for the next 20 years.”
He stressed that he supported the carbon budgeting process and the Climate Change Act, adding: “my nervousness about being too frank about the future is simply down to the issue about carbon capture and storage and the role that gas will play in future. I see some in the green movement who seem so keen to nail down a decarbonisation target, irrespective of whether carbon capture and storage works, but I think that would be unwise, to put it mildly.”
He was challenged by Environmental Audit Committee chair Joan Walley, to explain how he squared his recently stated views (recognising the impact of climate change) with his actions when the energy companies started to put up their prices in October by 10% or more, at which time he told Parliament that he wanted “to roll back some of the green regulations and charges that are putting up bills.”
Mr Cameron replied: “if you quote me accurately, I think I said that I wanted to roll back the cost of some of the green levies and charges, and that is exactly what I have done. If you look at what we have done, for example, with the energy company obligation, we have rolled back its cost by some £35, but we have done it on a carbon-neutral basis, because we have introduced other changes to ensure that we are taking carbon out... It was time for the Government to roll up their sleeves, look at all these charges and levies and think, ‘how can we help people and how can we get the bills down?’ We do the cold weather payments, the winter fuel allowance, the warm home discount and the big insulation schemes, and that is all well and good, but we needed to get the bills down. It was absolutely right to do that. We have rolled back the cost of the charges. We have not, I believe, sacrificed important green initiatives such as home insulation.”
He stressed: “First, we set out deliberately to try to do this in a way that was carbon-neutral. That was why we introduced the stamp duty discount for people who take action to improve the energy performance and energy efficiency of their home. I believe, on all the evidence that we had, that it is carbon-neutral. It was necessary and right to try to reduce the cost of people’s bills. I do not believe that we have done that by sacrificing insulation programmes. The truth is that it is getting harder. The early work as you improve the country’s housing stock - the solid wall insulation, the lagging of lofts - is the easiest and the most cost-effective.”
At this point, senior Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith (the Liaison Committee chair) intervened to point out to Mr Cameron that “solid wall insulation is one of the more difficult things.” To this Mr Cameron responded: “sorry. If I said that, I got it wrong. What I meant is the insertion of foam into cavity walls, which is relatively cheap. Solid wall insulation is incredibly expensive. The marginal benefit for the expenditure starts to become a bit challenging.”
Ms Walley then asked: “But how do you square that with the changes that you are making to the codes for sustainable homes and the impact that that will have on insulation?”
Mr Cameron replied: “I think you have to get a balance between regulation that is green and regulation that will deliver the building of new homes. The standards that we have in place are exacting and the balance is about right.” Adding: “there is always more to be done. The work on making this market more competitive is not finished. It is important that we are always driving down the cost of levies and charges. We should continue with that work. If you look at what we are doing to help people, we have kept the cold weather payments at the higher level - they were introduced just before the election, even though the money was not in the budget to do that - and we have kept winter fuel payments at a higher level.”
Ms Walley also asked: “was the Deputy Prime Minister wrong when, in a speech before Christmas, he said that “the green consensus across the political parties is…falling away”?
To this Mr Cameron wryly responded: “he is obviously never wrong, but I do not really agree with that… I think it is right to have these debates. I very much initiated this debate about rolling back the costs of green levies and charges and I am not for one minute regretful about that. I think it was absolutely right to have that debate.”

Friday, 24 January 2014

Puzzled by Plutonium?


Today a defence minister, Philip Dunne, provided an answer to Parliament that is demonstrably inaccurate. His ministerial reply, distorts by omission. Either it is deliberate, or the Government is dangerously ignorant. Either way, it's a worry.

The question, by veteran Labour backbencher Paul Flynn, asked the energy secretary 

 “whether any plutonium created in UK civilian (a) commercial reactors and (b) research reactors has been put to use in (i) nuclear weapons in the UK or elsewhere and (ii) other military uses since each reactor type first started operating in the UK.” [183738]

Mr Dunne responded he had  been asked to reply on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, and  said:

“This was addressed in a Ministry of Defence April 2000 report on historical accounting and plutonium, a summary of which is available in the National Archives at the following link:

He then expanded, saying “

Plutonium for nuclear weapons was produced in the UK defence reactors at the Windscale Piles, Calder hall and Chapelcross. (emphasis added)

The UK Government announced a moratorium on the production of nuclear materials for explosive purposes in 1995.The UK Government announced a moratorium on the production of nuclear materials for explosive purposes in 1995.
Since the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, all reprocessing in the UK has been conducted under the Euratom/International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards agreement. There have been some withdrawals of plutonium from safeguards, for analysis, temporary handling or processing when such services were not available in the civilian sector. It is not possible to determine where this plutonium was created. These withdrawals are of a type and quantity not suitable for weapons use; information can be found on the Office of Nuclear Regulation website at the following link:

(23 January 2014: Column 286W)

The reason why I dispute the minister’s reply is set out in this submission I made to a nuclear conference in April last year, entitled: Hinkley’s Hidden History.

You  can read the full presentation below:

With the seminar discussion of the historical context of the nuclear reactor decisions leading to the new proposed third nuclear plant proposed by EDF for Hinkley Point,  Dr David Lowry explains  how the first nuclear power station at Hinkley  played a key role in Britain’s military nuclear programme too.

The first public hint came with a public announcement on 17 June 1958 by the Ministry of Defence, on:

 “the production of  plutonium suitable for weapons in the new [nuclear ] power stations programme as an insurance against  future defence needs…”

in the UK’s  first generation Magnox  reactor.

By chance, in a French State Defence Council meeting on the same day, 17 June 1958, involving France’s President de Gaulle discussed the use of  a Magnox-style reactor-  the Gaz-Grafite plant ironically called  EDF- 1 -  at Chinon in the Loire Valley,  to  make France’s the  plutonium explosives.

A week later in the UK Parliament, Labour ‘s Roy Mason, asked  why Her Majesty's Government had

 “decided to modify atomic power stations, primarily planned for peaceful purposes, to

produce high-grade plutonium for war weapons; to what extent this will interfere with the atomic power programme; and if he will make a statement.?”

 to be  informed by the Paymaster General, Reginald Maudling

 “At the request of the Government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point and of the next two stations in its programme so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise.

The modifications will not in any way impair the efficiency of the stations. As the initial capital cost and any additional operating costs that may be incurred will be borne by the Government, the price of electricity will not be affected.

The Government made this request in order to provide the country, at comparatively small cost, with a most valuable insurance against possible future defence requirements. The cost of providing such insurance by any other means would be extremely heavy.”

(HC Deb 24 June 1958 vol 590 cc246-8)

 This was challenged by Mr Mason, but the minister retorted:

“The hon. Gentleman says that it is an imposition. The only imposition on the country would have arisen if the Government had met our defence requirements for plutonium by means far more expensive than those proposed in this suggestion.”

The headline story in the Bridgwater Mercury, serving the community around Hinkley, on that day (24 June} was:

 “MILITARY PLUTONIUM To be manufactured at Hinkley”

The article explained:

“An ingenious method has  been designed  for changing the plant without  reducing the output of electricity…”

CND was reported to be critical, describing this as a “distressing step” insisting

 “The Government is obsessed with a nuclear militarism which seems insane.”

The left wing Tribune magazine of 27 June 1958 was very critical of the deal under the headline ‘Sabotage in the Atom Stations’:

“For the sake of making more nuclear weapons, the Government  has  dealt a heavy blow at the development of atomic power stations.

And warned:

“Unless this disastrous decision is reversed, we shall  pay  dearly in more  ways than  one for the sacrifice  made on the grim alter of the H-bomb.”

Then, on 3 July 1958, the United Kingdom and United States signed a detailed agreement on co-operation on nuclear weapons development, after several months of  Congressional  hearings in Washington DC, but no oversight whatsoever in the UK Parliament.

A month later Mr Maudling told backbencher Alan Green MP in Parliament that:

“Three nuclear power stations are being modified, but whether they will ever be used to produce military grade plutonium will be for decision later and will depend on defence requirements. The first two stations, at Bradwell and Berkeley, are not being modified and the decision to modify three subsequent stations was taken solely as a precaution for defence purposes.”

 (HC Deb 01 August 1958 vol 592 cc228-9W228W)

Following  further detailed negotiations, the Ango-American  Mutual Defense Agreement on Atomic Energy  matters  to  give it  its full treaty title, was amended on  7 May 1959, to permit the exchange of  nuclear explosive material including  plutonium and enriched uranium for military purposes.

The Times’  science correspondent  wrote on 8 May 1959 under the headline

 ‘Production of Weapons at Short Notice’

“The most important technical fact behind the agreement is that of civil grade -  such as will be produced in British civil Click and drag the image to move around the pagenuclear power stations- can now be used in weapons…”

(Click and drag the image to move around the page

Within a month, Mr Maudling in Parliament told Tory back bencher, Wing Commander Eric Bullus who had asked the Paymaster-General what change there has been in the intention to modify three nuclear power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military use to be extracted should the need arise.

“Last year Her Majesty's Government asked the Central Electricity Generating Board to make a small modification in the design of certain power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted if need should arise. Having taken into account recent developments, including the latest agreement with the United States, and having re-assessed the fissile material which will become available for military purposes from all sources, it has been decided to restrict the modifications to one power station, namely, Hinkley Point.” (emphasis added)

(HC Deb 22 June 1959 vol 607 cc847-9 848

And so it may be seen that the UK’s first civil nuclear programme was  used as a source of  nuclear  explosive  plutonium for the US military, with Hinkley Point A the prime provider.

I explained in an earlier Blog entry last June -  A Blast from the Past: Hinton’s hidden history- in more detail the reasons why I  have strong reasons to believe plutonium created in civil  commercial reactors was allocated to the unsafeguarded  defence stockpile for military uses, based on an interview I conducted 31 years ago this month. See

Ministers in 2014 should not re-write history, to protect the nuclear business from its murky past embrace of nuclear weapons

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Fracked off

This letter was sent to the Guardian, but  is unpublished.
Your leader on shale gas (“Not so fast,” 14 January) mainly concentrates on the economics of shale gas extraction. However, there are some significant unresolved environmental issues yet to be evaluated in the UK ,beyond the water table contamination and earthquake concerns which have been widely discussed.
It appears from the prime minister's fast forward support for fracking before MPs on the Liaison committee he is ignorant of some key environmental risks. ("Cameron: opponents of fracking are irrational," 15 January).
One is the concern, which has had high profile coverage in the United States, over radiation risks from fracking, arising from the naturally radon, locked inside the rocks deep underground, is  released when the rocks are fractured in the fracking process.
Radon, which is unquestionably the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, according to a report produced by the then office heath advisor, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in 2009, on Radon and Public Health. (Report of an independent Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation: Docs RCE 11, HPA 2009:, could be released into kitchens nationwide when the gas is pumped to stoves.
Initially radon released from its virtually sealed underground locations will be in monatomic suspension, but then it accretes onto dust particles, pipework, etc, and some of it may remain suspended in the gas
As it does not burn with natural methane gas, it could end up damaging the health of gas consumers, unless it is stored for up to four days after extraction, to allow the radioactivity in the radon to die off. Radon has a so-called 'half-life' of 3.8 days.
The HPA has said: “Epidemiological studies have established that exposure to radon is a cause of lung cancer, with a linear dose-response relationship. Exposure to radon is now recognised as the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK after smoking and analysis for the HPA indicates that about 1100 UK deaths from lung cancer each year are caused by exposure to radon (most caused jointly by radon and smoking”
This concern about how much radon is likely to be piped into people's kitchens was spurred by a report released two years ago this month by Dr Marvin Resnikoff, of Radioactive Waste Management Associates ( Dr Resnikoff estimated radon levels from the Marcellus gas field - the nearest one being exploited to New York - as up to 70 times the average in methane extracted by other means.(
The second unreported concern is that greater hormone-disrupting properties have been identified in water located near hydraulic fracturing drilling sites than in areas without drilling, according to research published this month by  medical researchers at the  University of Missouri. These endocrine disruptors – sometimes called gender-bender chemicals-  interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions with hormones such as the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone androgen. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as those studied in the MU research, has been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility.
More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function, according to Dr Susan Nagel,  associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at the MU School of Medicine.
The study, Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region, was published in the journal Endocrinology.(
I would suggest any company planning to invest in fracking do due diligence on their future liabilities before they make final decisions. Caveat emptor.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Flood of words over rising water

A shorter version of this appears in the current issue of Sustainable Building

Despite a succession of ministers, including David Cameron, insisting resources for flood defences and mitigation have grown under the Coalition Government, MPs on the Environment Select Committee - under Conservative chair Anne McIntosh - issued a waspish new report on 7 January, asking under pressure environment secretary Owen Patterson, to clarify how planned spending cuts in Defra will impact future flood  management.

Mr Patterson told MPs this week that “about 5 million properties in England are at risk of flooding.”

Launching its report, Anne McIntosh said: “Defra is a small ministry facing massive budget cuts and which relies on a large number of arms-length bodies to deliver many significant areas of policy. Ministers must clarify how further budgets cuts of over £300 million over the coming 2 years will impact on the funding provided to these agencies and the ability of the Department to respond to emergencies.”

Meanwhile, the long-running dispute over who should pay for the flood maintenance storage charge has burst into the public, three years after the outgoing Labour Government  legislated for the implementation of sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) for new housing development in the Flood Act 2010.

The BBC reported that housebuilders insist it will put up the cost of new homes and have been wrangling with government and councils over who pays to maintain new systems. The broadcaster says it understands that a deal has now been struck, which is likely to see councils annually billing the owners of newly built homes for maintaining flood-prevention measures like ponds and hollows in the land designed to trap water.

Last summer MPs on the Environment Select committee demanded that ministers should introduce the SUDS rules immediately, but the government said it would delay doing so until this April. This has now been further delayed until this summer.

Paul Shaffer from Susdrain, the community for sustainable drainage, based at the construction research institute CIRIA, told BBC News: "The greatest benefits are likely to be if the water is captured on the surface. In some places it won't be appropriate, but generally it's a more simple solution that's easier to maintain. You get pollutants broken down free of charge by vegetation, you get amenity value that improves people's quality of lives, you help to improve biodiversity, you also get the benefit that in heatwaves the open areas of water help to cool down the surrounding land.”

But house builders say these features should not be mandatory because they take land which would otherwise be used for homes, and this increases the cost of house-building.

Professor Richard Ashley, an expert in urban water management at Sheffield University, observed the situation is “Ridiculous. The house builders are lobbying furiously behind the scenes.”

Local Government Association spokesman Councillor Mike Jones added: "The developers should be able to pay for the works that are needed. They are making very healthy profits."

In a Parliamentary discussion** on the impact of flooding 6 January Green MP Dr Caroline Lucas asked Mr Patterson why under his leadership of Defra he has seen the decision to slash Defra’s team working on climate change adaptation from 38 officials to six and when at the same time Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has scrapped the obligation for councils to prepare for the impacts of climate change? She demanded: “will the Secretary of State not acknowledge that that illustrates an incredibly reckless approach to the risks that extreme weather presents”?

At Environment Questions on 9 January Labour MP Hugh Bayley, who represents York Central, an area prone to urban flooding, challenged the environment secretary over his repeated insistence that the £2.3 billion due to be spent in the six-year period from 2015-16 by the coalition on flood protection is a bigger sum that spent by Labour, arguing that in an earlier  Parliamentary answer on 15 July  last year revealed Defra’s spending on flood protection in England fell from £646 million in 2010-11 to £533 million in 2013-14.

In a written reply on 9 January Communities floods minister, Brandon Lewis, said as of 8 January, Defra  had received 22 notifications from local authorities that they intend to make a claim under the Bellwin Scheme – which provides emergency financial assistance to local authorities to help them meet uninsurable costs they incur when responding to a major emergency in their area - for the recent severe weather events.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s question time in Parliament on 8 January, Mr Cameron confirmed the scope of the flood threat saying there were “currently 104 flood warnings in place across the whole of England and Wales. That means, sadly, that more flooding is expected and that immediate action is required. There are also 186 flood alerts, which means even further flooding is possible beyond what we expect to happen more rapidly

He added “On the positive side, the Environment Agency warning service worked better than it has in the past and the flood defences protected up to a million homes over the December and Christmas period, but there are some negatives, too, and we need to learn lessons from them.”

He also said he  agreed that “we are seeing more abnormal weather events. Colleagues across the House can argue about whether that is linked to climate change or not; I very much suspect that it is. The point is that, whatever one’s view, it makes sense to invest in flood defences and mitigation and to get information out better, and we should do all of those things.”

Asked by Labour leader, Ed Miliband if he would commit to Defra “providing a report by the end of this month, providing a full assessment of the future capability of our flood defences and flood response agencies and of whether the investment plans in place are equal to the need for events of this kind?”, Mr Cameron responded he would be “very happy to make that commitment.”

He also stressed that in addition to Government money, ministers “ are keen to lever in more private sector and local authority money, which is now possible under the arrangements.”

Mr Patterson said in Environment Question Time on 9 January that  “thanks to the fact that we have galvanised local councils through the partnership funding scheme, there will be all sorts of opportunities for ..local council(s) to access more funds for flood schemes.” He added “In November, it was found that 97% of the defences were in a good condition and would remain so within our existing budgets.”

But Shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle challenged the environment secretary, asking: ”When he became Secretary of State in September 2012, (he) reviewed his Department’s priorities. Why did his new list of four priorities make no reference to preparing for and managing risks from flood and other environmental emergencies, as the old list of priorities and responsibilities had done?”, to be told “My first priority is to grow the rural economy, and I am delighted to say that our ambitious schemes will help to do that,” adding “Dear, oh dear, this is lame stuff. We are spending £2.3 billion over the course of this Parliament, with £148 million of partnership money. We have an extra £5 million for revenue, and in the course of the recent reduction across Departments I specifically excluded flood defence, so the reduction is spread across the rest of Defra.”

Efra select committee critique of Defra annual report

Pointing to the recent flooding events over the Christmas and New year period, Committee chair Anne McIntosh insisted it reinforced the Committee's “concerns about cuts to the Defra budget and how these will be realised. The Environment Agency is set to lose 1700 jobs in the next 12 months,“ pointing out  “We have asked the Department to confirm the amount of contributions received from external sources under the Partnership Funding approach and to demonstrate how the Partnership Funding model for flood defences will deliver much greater private sector funding in the future. This will allow the drainage boards to do more of the essential maintenance work of main watercourses using their own resources.”

The MPs said that while they “understand that nearly all Government departments face budget cuts,” they also insisted that “savings must not have an adverse impact on the Department's ability to respond to emergencies.”  They invited Defra to set out its position in relation to reported reductions in staff at the Environment Agency and Defra’s research body, the Food and Environment Research Agency( Fera).  

They add that since the committee took evidence, “we have learnt that the Government will undertake a 'market sounding' exercise to explore joint venture as a potential future business model Fera The Government says that an external partner who has the necessary expertise and experience could help Fera "further develop and grow non-government revenue". It will announce the future of Fera at the end of the financial year.

The impact of spending reviews

The MPs set out that Defra’s budget, described as the Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) for its strategic objectives in 2012-13, was £2.5 billion, which  has been reduced by £500 million since the 2010 Spending Review and will reduce further by £300 million by 2015-16, which “represents one of the largest budget reductions in percentage terms for any Department, prompting questions about the Department's ability to manage its remit.” They added on 5 December, in the Autumn Statement, and subsequent to the Committee’s evidence sessions, additional reductions in Defra's resource (non-capital) budget of £19 million in 2014-15 and £18 million in 2015-16 were announced.Table 1: Reductions in total DEL expenditure

%real-change from 2010/11

In June 2013 the Treasury announced that Defra was expected to save £54 million by 2015-16 through better joint working between the Department's delivery bodies under the Strategic Alignment programme, but they also note that the Environment Secretary “did not provide us with any detail on which aspects of Departmental activity would bear the brunt of the savings.”

The MPs conclude that the Secretary of State “needs to be clearer about what substantial cuts in Defra's budget will mean for policy delivery. …We invite the Secretary of State to set out in detail, in response to this Report, what programmes and policies will be reduced or ended to meet the required budget savings.”

The MPs note that “there have been reports that the Environment Agency, which is responsible for responding to floods, is expected to lose about 1,700 jobs in the next 12 months.”

George Eustice, Conservative Defra minister for water and rural affairs, said in response to criticisms of Defra cuts that the cuts had not impacted on flood defences, stressing: “The £300 million cut is a cut to Defra’s overall budget. Within that, what we’ve actually said we’ll do is prioritise spending on flood defence – that’s why we’re going to be spending more in the next spending review period on flood defence than we have in the previous one.” 

He also suggested that the Environment Agency cuts might have made the organisation more efficient, pointing out “It’s important to remember that sometimes having cuts in budgets can drive change and cause governments to look at doing things differently. In the case of the Environment Agency, they cut back office admin costs by about a third.”

But Guy Shrubsole, a Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, countered: “Protecting British households from the destructive impacts of climate change is essential. The Prime Minister must intervene to ensure flood defence spending rises to meet the challenge.”

Trades Unions also urged the government to reverse the job losses at the Environment Agency, with Leslie Manasseh, the deputy general secretary of the Prospect union asserting: “They need to learn the lessons of the experiences of this winter, which have had such a devastating impact on so many people.”

Paul Leinster, the EA's chief executive said: "The EA has to save money and reduce staff numbers, like the rest of the public sector. We are looking to protect frontline services and our ability to respond to flooding when it occurs."

Defra floods minister Dan Rogerson published details in a written answer on 6 January of the number of staff employed directly by the Environment Agency in flood alleviation works in each of the last three years :

Number of staff
2013-14 (to Q2)

Charles Tucker, chairman of the National Flood Forum,added: "It's about joined-up thinking. With joined-up thinking, you don't cut the staff at the EA who manage flooding and maintain flood assets. With joined-up thinking, you don't keep cutting local council capability to deal with the new flooding responsibilities they've been given."

Ø  Meanwhile, Utility Week has revealed*** a whistleblower as accused the Environment Agency ' of abuses public funds, reporting that the Agency is under pressure from anonymous allegations of abusing public funds at the same time as its depleted workforce try to tackle widespread flooding.

An ex-employee, who identified himself only as “Henry”, earlier this month launched a blog painting a picture of endemic fraud, bullying and mismanagement in the Agency, in nearly 30 posts, all dated January 2014.

Henry told Utility Week he had lodged a complaint with Paul Leinster.