Innes Thomson – Calm before a storm?

Innes Thomson – Calm before a storm?

This has been a calmer week in some ways but good for some pro-active thinking about issues and preparation of our first ADA Board meeting for 2017 to take place on 14th February. As well as reporting some solid results for ADA for 2016, I will be focusing on getting the Board’s support for ADA’s 2017 – 2020 Business Plan and I look forward to sharing that with Members as soon as we can after the Board meeting. The main thrust will be about providing the services that Members have told us they want more of, and in particular representing Members’ interests at a national level and with Government.

There are some more general rumblings that I would like to share with you all this week around IDBs and the detail of their governance and management. Over the past few years, huge progress has been made by the Industry in moving towards a much better and consistent set of governance and management practices countrywide, and the place that IDBs collectively take at the national table today is thanks to that progress. ADA’s work on the establishment of a series of model governance documents has played a significant part in that progress and I welcome their broad use across the industry.

However, there are many still ready to criticize the IDBs and the way that they are run, principally in relation to the larger numbers of people still sitting on some Boards. Amalgamations and the formation of Consortia has helped in many areas to streamline and reduce the size of the strategic management teams of certain IDBs and the success of that manifests itself in the operation and governance of those Boards today. The small but very effective Management Boards with the overall responsibility for the activities of those Boards is a business model that surely all IDBs would benefit from. Peoples’ time is also at a premium these days and if we are to expect either voluntary involvement of our future generations or councils to provide their rightful number of members on Boards, we must try to reduce the burden of demand on people to attract the right skills and competencies, and ensure that all Board seats are properly filled. You will be hearing more from ADA about this and, in the meantime, if you are an IDB Board Member, please start thinking about how your Board could operate with less people. I will need some support to keep Government on-side with us on this subject.

Much has been done by ADA to promote high-level discussions with Defra about the progress on the 10 front-runner de-maining projects but I am afraid that there is still no further progress to report. We do understand that the dossier is on the Secretary of State’s desk and we continue to hope for a positive decision. Please bear with us whilst we continue to encourage such a decision.

I said that this week has been calmer but I know that some of you have already battened down the hatches for the onslaught of some wilder weather hitting our shores. As I write this from North Yorkshire, the “mare’s tails” are in the sky heralding those gales and fronts expected. I am hoping to get started in discussions with the EA about how we can more effectively use the PSCA process between IDBs, the EA and Local Authorities to assist with emergency flood response and recovery and I will engage more widely with you all at some point on this. In the meantime, keep an eye on the weather and flood warning service and, above all, stay safe.


Image: Natural Flood Management and historic footbridge in upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire