The Environment Agency (EA) is a non-department public body which was established in 1996, having been sponsored by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Its role is to protect and enhance the environment in England.
The EA employs around 11,000 staff and this is funded partly by DEFRA and partly from the issue of licenses and permits to meet the operational budget requirements of approximately £1bn per annum. The EA has struggled to meet this budget requirement for many years and is, reputedly, in a dire financial situation due to the extra demands that have been placed on it (such as the extensive flooding in 2013/14).
Given the financial issues that the EA faces they have decided to charge “persistently poor performers” much more than they have been over previous years. One of the major initiatives is changes to its existing Operational Risk Appraisal (OPRA) scheme. This scheme incorporates a risk rating in order to work out what a business will be charged for a particular activity. The best performers (the ones who require the least attention) will be charged less than the businesses that require more of the EA inspectors’ time. The changes will be introduced in just over 2 months time and some of the very worst performers will see their standard permit fees increasing by a factor of 5! Over the course of the next year the EA will be looking at other ways to raise funds through making the pricing more expensive.
The best way to minimise these cost increases is to understand the OPRA and work effectively and efficiently with the EA to minimise your risk rating, e.g. send information into the EA punctually as a good starting point! Get in touch if you’ve recently been prosecuted, or if you want to know more.