In all the excitement of cakegate, partygate et al you might have well missed out on the latest episode of s**tgate – the creation of the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP).
A child of the Environment Act that came into being last November the OEP is a new public body that is tasked with holding to account government departments, government ministers, regulators, local authorities and some private bodies, such as water companies – but only in respect of their public powers and duties.
Glenys Stacey - OEP Chair
So yes, you have read it right, we have a new regulator to regulate the regulators. You really could not make this up but that is where we are; the likes of the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science to pick out three of the eighteen government agencies listed by the OEP, will now have to answer complaints from the public at large that will be routed through the OEP. Of course, guess who is missing from the list? Yes, our old friend OFWAT.
Will the OEP be a force for good to, in its own words use its “powers and duties to make the greatest contribution we can to environmental protection and the improvement of the natural environment”?
In the short term, the answer has to be no – this whole edifice is a bureaucrat’s wet dream and, at their own admission, still very much a work in progress with it yet to appoint a permanent CEO with an invitation to us all to comment on the Draft Strategy Consultation. Plus the legislation required to legally bring the OEP into being has been delayed until autumn 2022 at the earliest.
It also seems doubtful to me that (but I’m happy to be corrected) that the OEP will not be a conduit for complaints about water company behaviour. At best you’ll be able to complain to the OEP that the EA are not doing their job to regulate this or that water company.
However much I’d like to wish the OEP well, in my heart of heats I doubt it will have any significant impact – one part of government commenting on the actions of another part of government is hardly the storming of the Bastille. Judge for yourself https://www.theoep.org.uk/