Quango list shows 192 to be axed

Francis Maude explains the tests that quangos have been subjected to

Related Stories

The government has announced a huge cull of quangos in a move it says will improve accountability and cut costs.

It will axe 192 of the public bodies - such as the Film Council and the Audit Commission - while 118 will be merged.

The future of some bodies is still under consideration but 380 will definitely be kept, the list says.

Minister Francis Maude could not confirm how many jobs would be lost. Labour's Liam Byrne said the cull could end up costing more than it saved.

Quangos - "quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations" - are arm's-length bodies funded by Whitehall departments but not run by them. They are advisory bodies, consumer watchdogs or organisations carrying out public services.

The government reviewed 901 bodies - 679 quangos and 222 other statutory bodies.

Among those being abolished entirely are the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and Cycling England.

Wine purchase advice

The quangos whose functions are being returned to Whitehall departments include the Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance Advisory Board and the Appointments Commission.

FACING THE AXE

  • British Nuclear Fuels
  • British Shipbuilders
  • Youth Justice Board
  • Film Council
  • Audit Commission
  • General Teaching Council for England
  • Regional Development Agencies
  • Chief Coroner's office
  • Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

Others, like the Zoos Forum, the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee and the Air Quality Expert Group, will be replaced by "committees of experts".

The Olympic Park Legacy Company will have its functions transferred to London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines will also be abolished, but ministers are considering whether another body should continue its work.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Byrne said he backed the idea of cutting the number of quangos, a process he said the previous Labour government had set in motion.

But he accused the government of changing its argument over why they should be axed when it became clear that costs associated with closing them would not lead to any savings and could cost money.

He dubbed Mr Maude "the most expensive butcher in the country".

'Irritating'

He said: "Labour had a plan for steadily saving £0.5bn by carefully closing 25% of quangos over the next few years.

"The Tories now need to tell us whether their desperation for headlines and faster cuts means the cost of closing quangos is actually bigger than the savings. And while they're at it, they should tell us whether their manifesto commitment for 20 new quangos is now on ice."

Analysis

Conservative politicians have had quangos in their sights for many years, but this review suggests there are very few functions the government can get rid of entirely.

Some will be merged back into Whitehall departments and many of those being abolished are advisory bodies, which will now sit as a committee of experts.

So what about Labour's jibe that Mr Maude has become the most expensive butcher in Britain?

It's unclear how much money will be saved under these plans - Downing Street has vaguely promised there would be savings "in future years". Merging organisations could make them more efficient but there are always costs associated with the process itself.

Ministers are talking far more about the way these changes will improve accountability and transparency, rather than the contribution they'll make to reducing the budget deficit.

Mr Maude told MPs that money would be saved by axing the quangos, but he said the main reason for the cull had always been to improve accountability, by having decisions taken by ministers and local authorities where possible.

"What people find so irritating is the sense that there is this huge amount of activity incontinently set up, much of it by the last government, by bodies which are not in any way accountable - no one can be held accountable for what they do and that is what we are seeking to change," he told MPs.

He said some jobs would be lost at the bodies being axed and some of the functions they performed would cease to be carried out.

For those that remain, there would be greater transparency - including revealing top salaries - and more "financial rigour", he told MPs.

He told the BBC there was no "dogmatic" ban on any new quangos being set up, but he said too many of the arm's length bodies had been set up so ministers could "avoid taking decisions" or face difficult questions and he suggested there was much duplication of work by different bodies.

He said it was right to get the "broad" plans out - but it was still a "work in progress" as some bodies were still under review. In future every three years each remaining quango would be subject to a review, to see if it was still needed.

Retained

Start Quote

Many quangos are an unnecessary waste of public funds”

End Quote David Hankey

Many of the better-known organisations due to be abolished had already been announced by the government, while others were included in a list leaked to the BBC last month.

These include the UK Film Council, the Audit Commission, the Health Protection Agency, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and eight regional development agencies.

Among those the list confirms will be retained are Acas, the Competition Appeals Tribunal, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Low Pay Commission, UK Trade International, the Charity Commission for England and Wales and the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The list also confirms that the government intends to merge the Competition Commission with the Office of Fair Trading, Postcom and Ofcom will be merged as will the Gambling Commission and National Lottery Commission.

Unions reacted angrily to the announcement. Unite's joint general secretary, Tony Woodley said: "The fact that Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude is unable to say how much will be saved and how many jobs will be affected by this cull shows the threadbare nature of the thinking behind these abolition plans."

And Paul Noon, of the civil service union Prospect, described the bill planned to bring the changes in as "a legislative hammer to smash public bodies which are doing valuable work in the public interest".

Quangos to be abolished

"In many cases the government is abolishing bodies that cost peanuts but provide invaluable scientific or other expert advice to government."

A Public Bodies Bill is to be introduced to give government departments the power to cut or change the functions of bodies set up under statute.

The legislation will also mean that the power is in place to abolish quangos in future.

Ian Magee, a senior fellow at the Institute of Government who authored a report on quangos in July, told the BBC there appeared to be a "change in rhetoric" in recent weeks from the government - who were now talking more about restoring accountability rather than saving substantial sums.

He said simply transferring functions from quangos to government departments would not save much money.

First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said: "We are disappointed with some of the changes the UK government has announced today and are concerned at the way in which the review has been rushed through with limited opportunity to work through all the practical implications from the Welsh perspective."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK Politics stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ITChild's play

    It's never been easier for small businesses to get their message out to the world

Programmes

  • An aerial shot shows the Olympic Stadium, which is closed for repair works on its roof, in Rio de Janeiro March 28, 2014.Extra Time Watch

    Will Rio be ready in time to host the Olympics in 2016? The IOC president gives his verdict

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.