THE ENVIRONMENT Agency and the Angling Trust have called on the Government to prove it truly cares about the nation’s waterways by restoring the huge funding cuts it has made over the past decade.
Since 2010 the Government’s grant to the EA has been slashed by two-thirds, from £120 million to £40 million, having stood at £210 million a few years before that.
Speaking to the Environmental Audit Committee recently, Sir James Bevan, CEO of the EA, challenged George Eustice, Defra Secretary of State, to restore the cuts, claiming they have impacted on the agency’s ability to properly monitor our rivers and the polluters who do so much damage.
While the challenge was welcomed by the Angling Trust, it believes both bodies need to overhaul the system of reporting and dealing with pollution if we’re to reverse decades of environmental negligence.
Stuart Singleton-White, the Trust’s Head of Campaigns, said:
“As anglers, we see the real consequences of these cuts every day – rivers dying in front of our eyes, fish populations falling, raw sewage and wet wipes floating by, algal blooms, and run-off from poorly managed farmland.
“But when we report this, our horror turns to frustration. Most of the time the Environment Agency does nothing.”
The Trust claims that, on average, farms will be visited once every 200 years and that when action is eventually taken, too often the agency doesn’t prosecute, preferring instead to rely on enforcement undertakings (fines) rather than court action.
“If this Government is serious about protecting our rivers and waters, then it has to act now. Nothing short of properly funding the regulator charged with protecting our freshwater environment will do. Once this happens, the Environment Agency needs to act decisively, get boots on the ground and show us all that it can reverse the trend of decline that has happened on its watch.”
#### The numbers:
**_2,000_** Potential breaches by water companies between 2010 and 2020. The EA prosecuted just 174 breaches, equal to 8.7%
**_98%_** Rate by which court actions against polluters have fallen (235 in 2002, just 3 in 2020)
**_400,000_**Number of times untreated sewages pilled into our rivers in 2020. The worst individual polluter was United Utilities, which covers the North West.