ADA firmly believes that internal drainage boards (IDBs) continue to provide a robust arrangement for the local governance of water level management in England following the publication of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report on internal drainage boards. The report focuses on governance and oversight arrangements; processes for raising concerns; and, the potential for conflicts of interest.
The sector has been making significant progress in recent years to address its visibility, governance and accountability, especially to the local communities being served. ADA appreciates the NAO’s independent view of the sector and will work closely with our members and Defra to make further improvements. These will ensure IDBs deliver an efficient and cost effective service, whilst retaining their valuable local accountability.
Innes Thomson, ADA’s Chief Executive, commenting on the publication of the report, said “The NAO report will help us to focus our attentions on those specific areas where further action can be taken to improve transparency and reduce potential conflicts of interest. We will continue to work very closely with Boards, Defra, the Environment Agency, local authorities and Natural England striving for excellence together. Today, ADA is proud to represent England’s IDBs that provide a much needed local service, good value for money, and carry out work that benefits local economies, their communities and the environment”
The report serves as a very useful basis for industry discussion around how governance standards, sector oversight/assurance, and board training can be strengthened without adversely increasing administrative costs. However, ADA considers that the report does not fairly portray the access to environmental expertise at the disposal of IDBs. Boards currently utilise environmental advice through a range of complimentary means. These include via board membership, committees, employed staff, conservation bodies/authorities and contracted persons or consultants. ADA believes it is important that IDBs continue to be able to build access to environmental expertise that is most suitable to their local circumstances.
The report highlights the benefits that have already been achieved via consortia, collaborative working and amalgamation. ADA is pleased that partnership working mechanisms are now very much the local norm and are playing an important role in the scrutiny of IDBs’ work and costs, and we commend this approach across the country to all risk management authorities.
On the subject of further potential for mergers between IDBs in some areas of the country to achieve greater resilience of organisation and financial sustainability, ADA stands ready to assist neighbouring boards looking at closer working and amalgamation to secure their role delivering water level management within their respective catchments.
Finally, whilst we acknowledge the good efforts of many IDBs to enhance their profiles within the communities they serve, ADA strongly advocates increasing the publicity of IDB activities, both locally and nationally, to help the public to better understand the vital importance of the work they do to their, lives, livelihoods and local landscape.