The chairman of the Environment Agency (EA) Sir Philip Dilley has resigned in the wake of media criticism that he was on holiday on Barbados during Christmas while his staff were battling severe floods.
Dilley said the media attention on his family was unacceptable and the role required of the EA chairman was not possible in a part-time capacity.
Environment secretary Liz Truss said she had accepted his resignation and thanked him for his work.
“He has ably led the EA through some challenging times and leaves it a much better organisation, as shown in its excellent response to the recent flooding which saw staff working around the clock to protect and help thousands of people across the country,” she said.
In a statement, Dilley said he was well qualified to carry out the role and was disappointed he would not see through the delivery of planned reforms.
He said the reason for him quitting was an expectation that the chairman should be available at short notice throughout the year – but that was inappropriate in a part-time non-executive position such as his.
“Furthermore, the media scrutiny focused on me is diverting attention from the real issue of helping those whose homes and businesses have flooded, as well as the important matter of delivering a long-term flood defence strategy.
”This same media attention has also affected and intruded on my immediate family, which I find unacceptable.”
The scrutiny followed the EA not revealing that Dilley was holidaying with his family in the Caribbean during flooding in the wettest month on record in the UK.
“I want to be clear that I have not made any untrue or misleading statements, apart from approving the statement about my location over Christmas that, in hindsight, could have been clearer,” he said.
”The EA is an extremely competent and well-run organisation, and the many employees I have met are passionate about what they do because they really care for the environment and the communities we work to enhance and protect.”
Dilley was appointed to the post in June 2014. The current deputy, Emma Howard Boyd, will lead the board in the short term, and Truss said recruiting a permanent replacement would follow.