There’s nothing like a traditional Christmas in England. A tree bedecked with baubles collected over the years, cards strewn across the mantelpiece, a table groaning under the strain of all the sweets and food piled on it and, of course, gale force winds and flooding across most of the country. This generally leads to a distinct lack of festive spirit as, like the Three Kings (but with more horsepower,) many of us trekked home to see our loved ones, guided by the light of someone else’s drinks cabinet.
I was one such traveller. Door to door it took me 11 hours to get home to Cornwall following flooding across the track between Tiverton and Exeter. In the morning before I set off there wasn’t even the promise of road transport to bridge the gap…so I guess I could say I was lucky that my optimism in getting an earlier train paid off and a coach was waiting for me as we slid/glided/squelched into the station.
Along the way we had two holdups due to no driver appearing. There was less carol singing, more howling and gnashing of teeth. The same patch of track had flooded last year at exactly the same time hadn’t it? Couldn’t they deal with a bit of water? Didn’t Britannia used to rule the waves and now we seem to be going under them instead?!
But everyone on the train made it to their destinations safely and no doubt ate enough to make a diet a cast-iron cert as part of their New Year’s resolutions.
Given the issues my fellow travellers and I experienced, we’d probably expect all hands to the pump (literally) at the Environment Agency, recruiting flood management operatives like mad to make sure a similar situation doesn’t happen again in 2014. Not so. Instead they have announced that they will be cutting 1,500 jobs by October 2014, some of which may well come from flood protection. At a time when the news is reporting we are hitting peak flood season this doesn’t sound like the most prudent of political moves…
But, as I sit here cosily eating my cornflakes and drinking my first coffee of the hour, I think it’s important that we realise that the key concern here is that they are able to deliver an effective service for the future. Yes, we are showing signs of an improvement in the economy, and yes any redundancy situation is unpleasant, but every business and organisation still needs to push towards efficiency. By efficiency I don’t just mean cost-saving at the expense of all else; indeed there are many examples around of companies who have cut too deep in their headcounts and who are now struggling to re-recruit the skills they lost. Rather, efficiency is making sure that you have just the right people in just the right place doing the job that you need them to do in order to keep you afloat. Organisations that get this right will ride on the crest of the wave of the upturn, but won’t go under if it turns out to be nothing more than an overhyped trickle. So let’s not knock the folks at the Environment Agency quite yet.
Brett is a Senior Consultant in London and advises packing a dinghy next Christmas though, just in case.