Environment Agency boss Sir Philip Dilley resigns

Sir Philip Dilley Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Philip Dilley was criticised for holidaying in Barbados during the crisis

Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley, who faced criticism during the recent floods, has resigned.

He had come under pressure for holidaying in Barbados during the floods in December, the wettest month on record in the UK.

He said the role now required him to be available at short notice and this was "inappropriate in a part-time non-executive position".

In a statement, he also said he found the media scrutiny "unacceptable".

He insisted he was "well qualified" to carry out the role but media focus on him was "diverting attention" from efforts to help those affected by flooding.

Sir Philip would step down from the £100,000-a-year, three day-a-week post at the end of January, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs said.

'Been clearer'

The Environment Agency had been accused of misleading the public about Sir Philip's whereabouts over Christmas by claiming he was at "home with his family".

Last week, Sir Philip told MPs he had two homes, including one in the Caribbean where his wife is from, adding that he kept in "regular contact" and worked from there.

In his resignation statement he said: "I want to be clear that I have not made any untrue or misleading statements, apart from approving the statement about my location over Christmas that in hindsight could have been clearer."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Storm Eva caused severe flooding in the West Yorkshire town of Mytholmroyd on 26 December
Image copyright PA
Image caption Residents in York had to be evacuated from their homes on 27 December
Image copyright Environment Agency
Image caption Sir Philip did return from holiday to visit flood-hit West Yorkshire on 30 December

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss thanked Sir Philip for his work and said he had "ably led the Environment Agency through some challenging times, and leaves it a much better organisation".

Current deputy chairman Emma Howard Boyd would become acting chairman with immediate effect, Ms Truss added.

Several storms wreaked havoc across the UK in December, with Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire among the worst affected by the floods.

Parts of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland also saw flooding and damage from a series of storms, including Desmond, Eva and Frank.

The Environment Agency, which covers England, is responsible for managing the risk of flooding from main rivers and issues flood alerts and warnings.

'Their boss'

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who is MP for the Cumbria constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale and was caught up in the floods, said the "public deserved better".

"Many staff gave up their Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Their boss should have joined them. It seemed to many that this organisation was bereft of its formal leadership when it was most needed," he said.

Conservative MP for Ribble Valley Nigel Evans said Sir Philip had now made the "right judgement call".

"It was the worst flooding in the north of England in living memory and people thought it was bizarre that the chairman of the Environment Agency decided to stay on holiday," he said.

During questions from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last week, Sir Philip admitted to MPs that "in hindsight, it would have been much better if I'd have come back as early as I could which was one or two days earlier".

More on this story