David Levy – What does it look like from the other side? – May 16

Yesterday I found myself in the unusual position of viewing a government agency with different eyes.

For many years in a previous life, so to speak, I held an agency to account and even took them to the Royal Courts of Justice over several environmental issues. This process was arduous and I developed an antagonism towards several officers which to this day I am not proud of. It was almost as if we were rutting, horns locked in a hell-for-leather engagement. This measured the meter of who I was, and how far I was prepared to go. The answer to this question was all the way.

Having gone through this process, I yesterday extended and received hands of respect when I met with a different agency to discuss issues face to face, electing for this rather than the option of public theatre and confrontation.

These days I have determined to engage where the option is offered, and endeavour to exchange ideas rather than confront the agency in the arena of public opinion.

This doesn’t mean that it always goes smoothly because the agency is there mainly for business as usual, and to facilitate the flow of finance.

For many government agencies, the standard costs charged by the agency to the license applicant do not reflect the amount of work that should be done by the agency. Often the evidence surrounding the application is not independently sought, but is provided by the applicant with them paying for the interpretation of that evidence by a third party. It all comes down to money.

So yesterday I found myself listening to a Chief Executive who, with some pride, defended his 300 staff who administer the regulation for a three dimensional world which is greater in size than the land part of the UK on a budget which is frankly ludicrous.

I actually found myself angry that this person finds himself living in a world that demands increasing levels of expertise, whilst having to tolerate falling income — and I was there to engage with a demand for even better standards.

It is not unreasonable for a public conservation organisation to demand better from the regulator, but we also have a responsibility to demand from Government that this regulator has the resources to do the job.

Government can waste £millions on a piece of bureaucracy that ends up in the bin, but cannot fund an agency which is at the centre of marine food security and the management of national resources for generations to come.

I actually found myself sympathetic towards the agency’s plight — and that has prompted this blog which I hope the agency may read.

Meanwhile Marinet is still engaged with the specifics which still require action on our part, and still requires answers on theirs.

Their invitation to attend their HQ and to question further is greatly appreciated, and will be actioned in June 2016.


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