REUTERS | Ognen Teofilovski

Bonfire of the quangos

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, has announced that 192 public bodies (quangos) will be abolished (including the Design Council), with others being restructured (for example the Home and Communities Agency (HCA) and the Environment Agency (EA)), and some still on hold pending further review (see below).

In making the announcement, Francis Maude said:

“We know that for a long time there has been a huge hunger for change. People have been fed up with the old way of doing business, where the Ministers they voted for could often avoid taking responsibility for difficult and tough decisions by creating or hiding behind one of these quangos.

Today’s announcement means that many important and essential functions will be brought back into departments meaning the line of accountability will run right up to the very top where it always should have been.”

For a complete list, see Public bodies reform – proposals for change.

Bodies still under review

While some bodies, like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have escaped the cull (pending Lord Young’s review of its functions and expenditure), the fate of a number of bodies is still undecided. These include:

  • Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). At present, there is no indication of when this review will be complete.
  • Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), which are being considered for transfer to the private sector. Their fate will be known in November 2010.
  • Partnerships for Schools (PfS), whose fate will not be known until December 2010, when the government completes its review of the Department for Education’s capital expenditure.

For more information on which other public bodies are affected, see PLC’s coverage.

4 thoughts on “Bonfire of the quangos

  1. The Public Administration Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, has published Smaller Government: Shrinking the Quango State, its report looking at the way the government undertook its review of all public bodies to identify those which it felt were no longer necessary.

    The report concludes that:

    “This review was poorly managed. There was no meaningful consultation, the tests the review used were not clearly defined and the Cabinet Office failed to establish a proper procedure for departments to follow. It is important that the Government learn lessons from these mistakes as it has indicated that future reviews are likely to be run in broadly the same way. To ensure their effectiveness future reviews should not be conducted in a similar way.”

    The report also suggests the government’s review was a “missed opportunity”:

    “The government should have reassessed what function public bodies are needed to perform and transferred many more of these activities to charities and mutuals…

    It should also have used the review to get control of some activities of public bodies that provide questionable benefit to the taxpayer, most notably the use of public funds for lobbying and public relations campaigns.”

    At the time the government announced the bonfire, many were concerned that the functions performed by these bodies would still need to be undertaken by someone and that would involve a cost. This report will do nothing to allay those who expressed such concerns.

  2. The Public Administration Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, has published Smaller Government: Shrinking the Quango State, its report looking at the way the government undertook its review of all public bodies to identify those which it felt were no longer necessary.

    The report concludes that:

    “This review was poorly managed. There was no meaningful consultation, the tests the review used were not clearly defined and the Cabinet Office failed to establish a proper procedure for departments to follow. It is important that the Government learn lessons from these mistakes as it has indicated that future reviews are likely to be run in broadly the same way. To ensure their effectiveness future reviews should not be conducted in a similar way.”

    The report also suggests the government’s review was a “missed opportunity”:

    “The government should have reassessed what function public bodies are needed to perform and transferred many more of these activities to charities and mutuals…

    It should also have used the review to get control of some activities of public bodies that provide questionable benefit to the taxpayer, most notably the use of public funds for lobbying and public relations campaigns.”

    At the time the government announced the bonfire, many were concerned that the functions performed by these bodies would still need to be undertaken by someone and that would involve a cost. This report will do nothing to allay those who expressed such concerns.

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