Dave – the editor
This is what we’ve already written about the flood situation that hit us on 14 January: A lack of joined up thinking = a clusterf**k! and: After the flood…the questions… In both of these posts we pointed to the range of factors that contributed to what many regard as the worst flooding in the area for decades.
One of the contributory factors to the flooding along the Mar Dyke all the way up to Bulphan was the failure of the sluice gates at Purfleet to open at low tide to allow floodwater to disperse into the River Thames. Eventually, engineers working for the Environment Agency managed to open the gates and allow at least some of the floodwater to flow away: Sluice gate is raised at last to let floodwaters flow away but concerns remain over more flooding, while Anglian Water has acted to protect local residential drainage systems.
The failure of the sluice gates at Purfleet is not the fault of the engineers who work for the Environment Agency. It’s the fault of a management culture at the agency that lets its spending priorities get dictated by the bean counters at the Treasury rather than what actually needs to be done on the ground to stop flooding. If the Environment Agency had resourced their engineers properly, there would have been enough of them to run a regular checking and maintenance schedule that would have ensured all the sluice gates were fully operational. The problem is they have too few engineers covering too large an area which means infrastructure doesn’t get checked as frequently as it should. So when something goes wrong, it’s a massive job to sort it. All praise to the engineers who did get the sluices at Purfleet sorted:) No praise for their penny pinching management.
Anglian Water engineers were also out and about on 14 January doing what they could. Anglian Water is a privatised utility. Basically, it’s a cash cow for the pension funds. So, their engineers who were rushing around on the day doing what they could to keep on top of the situation ultimately work for a pension fund! Which may explain why there are too few of them having to cover a large area and as a consequence in an emergency situation, always having to play catch up rather than being allowed to get on top of a situation. Again, all praise to the Anglian Water engineers who were out on the day and absolutely none for their management.
This is what happens when the checking and maintenance of vital infrastructure is regarded as a cost to be controlled rather than a vital function for a civilised society. Compound that with a lack of joined up thinking and a planning system that’s driven by financial considerations as opposed to the actual needs of the population, and it’s no surprise that we ended up enduring the clusterf**k was had on 14 January. With the likelihood of more to come…