A report in the Telegraph newspaper said Sir Philip Dilley has been holidaying here for the past fortnight despite telling MPs he would work “seven days a week” if there was a flooding crisis at home.
In July last year, when he appeared before the parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee for what was effectively a job interview, he said: “The role is described as two to three days a week. I have interpreted it as typically two days a week with an allowance for crises. I can well see if there is a crisis it’s six days a week or seven. This would be my core role.”
“From what I saw as a member of the public that did all happen but it happened a bit late.”
He later returned to the theme in a newspaper interview, saying Lord Smith had come in for “unfair” criticism but nevertheless “I will look to avoid it”.
He added: “I chair the board of the agency and I agree there is a sort of figurehead position that is crucial for perception.”
However, instead of pulling on his wellies and spending the festive period visiting the flood-hit north of England, the only opportunity for Sir Philip to get his feet wet has been in the balmy waters of the Caribbean, the Telegraph said, noting that Sir Philip spent the past two weeks at his holiday home outside Bridgetown with his Barbadian second wife June, an interior designer, with whom he built the house in 2009.
The paper also quoted Jim Fitzpatrick, a member of the environment committee that confirmed Sir Philip’s appointment, as saying: “They were very positive words he [Sir Philip] said to the committee and I do recollect him quite clearly giving a commitment in the event of future floods, and it’s disappointing that he has not lived up to his own expectations.
“I’m sure he will be asked questions about his absence when there was such a disaster unfolding right across the north. Whether it eventually leads to anything more serious for him remains to be seen.”
The Telegraph said Sir Philip’s only visit to the flooded areas was on Dec 14, when he went to Cumbria. When the Prince of Wales visited Cumbria on Dec 21, Sir Philip was already in Barbados and sent his deputy to accompany the Prince.
Sir Philip is a former business adviser to David Cameron. In his previous role as executive chairman of the engineering firm Arup he accompanied the Prime Minister on trade missions to India, China and Russia and was a guest at a State banquet at Windsor Castle when the Indian president was hosted by the Queen.
His appointment as Environment Agency chairman was controversial because he has corporate links to the fracking industry.
Portsmouth-born Sir Philip married his first wife, Susan, in 1980, and has two grown-up sons, James and Jonathan.
He married his second wife, June, in 2003. She has a 29-year-old son called Anthony from a previous marriage, the Telegraph reported.