Client Story


Building a new environmental watchdog

As the UK prepares for Brexit, it has to take over regulatory duties from the EU, in areas including the environment. So it needs a new watchdog to hold government to account for how it looks after everything from rivers, beaches and nature to air quality, and guards against dangers like pollution and flooding. We’ve helped the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) create the new body, deciding its strategy and structure, and how it works.

Key successes

  • Left the UK government clear about what it will take to run a cost-effective environmental watchdog
  • Defined what the Office for Environmental Protection does, and how, and what skills and staff it needs.

Setting a new standard

The UK government wants to deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth. It aims to get the country recycling more and wasting less, breathing cleaner air, planting trees, safeguarding forests, and supporting nature recovery as it works to tackle climate change and reach net zero emissions.

Defra’s draft Environment Bill says what the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will do after the UK leaves the EU. It will report on how the UK progresses on its 25-year Environmental Plan and advise on new laws and policies. It will also follow up complaints if other organisations fall short of their own duties. But the law doesn’t say how the OEP should work.

We helped make a practical reality out of Defra’s vision for a ‘world-leading independent environmental protection body’ that leaves the environment ‘in a better state than we inherited it’. For our business design and people and talent experts, it’s meant setting up the organisation from scratch. First, they tackled strategic questions about its remit, purpose and stakeholders. Then they dealt with operational issues like what IT, how many people and what skills it needs, and how it measures success.

Laying the right foundations

We helped set the principles for designing the OEP. They include drawing on outside experts to shape its thinking, having close relationships with bodies it oversees, and being forward-looking and proactive. Then we worked with civil servants to create its target operating model, also bringing in stakeholders like NGOs, charities and specialist lawyers.

The work means Defra now understands what the OEP can achieve, how long it will take to set up and what it will cost. It also means the body can start recruiting the right people.

Working with PA meant that we could work at pace to create a target Operating Model from scratch within 9 months. The way their staff integrated within the team and the back-up they had from directly transferable expertise within the organisation meant that we were able to be a confident programme and deliver to a very high standard.”
Deputy Director Environmental Governance at Defra

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