In late 2012, three United Kingdom environmental bodies: Environment Agency & Natural England, and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee were subject to a triennial review.
All three bodies are an important part of Defra’s delivery network, which focuses on delivering the Government’s environmental priorities of growing the rural economy, improving the environment and controlling plant and animal disease.
During late 2012 and 2013, each body was subject to their three yearly review of their roles with engagement with shared stakeholders, making the process as efficient as possible, while increasing the potential opportunities for reform and innovative delivery.
Focusing on the triennial review of the Environment Agency and Natural England, specific characteristics of the two bodies have shaped the Review. Many of their duties are statutory requirements, often derived from European legislation, which would still apply regardless of reforms to the bodies themselves.
Many of their duties are, also, essential to the environmental and societal well-being of the country, including protection from environmental emergencies such as flooding. The Review sought to ensure that the resilience of the bodies is maintained and the delivery of vital services is protected.
The review could have led to the merger of the two bodies, in a similar manner as Natural Resources Wales has taken over the functions of the Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales, as well as some functions of Welsh Government.
In the end, the review of the Environment Agency and Natural England has concluded that both organisations should be retained as separate Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) with their separate purposes and functions.
It is expected that both bodies should continue to reform how they deliver their services to their customers and drive further efficiencies. Additionally, the bodies will be tasked with delivering the conclusions of the Review, developing a jointly-owned implementation plan in close consultation with Defra. Defra will hold to account the leadership of both bodies for the delivery of the reforms, which is especially relevant in the light of the 10% cut in their budget for 2015/16.