Thursday, 13 January 2011


The Public Administration Committee of the House of Commons has published a critical report on the Government's cull on quangos which looks unlikely to realise the hoped for savings: Quangos

As I observed in earlier commentary on this subject what you need to do is first decide whether a particular function needs to be performed by government and, if so, whether it is better done by a central government department or an agency.

The Government seems to believe that quangos are less accountable and I think there are senses and circumstances when this is the case. However, the committee makes an interesting point when they state 'Stakeholders and civil society play an important part in providing challenge and criticism of public bodies on a day-to-day basis, and it is easier for them to perform this role when they have a clearly identified body to engage with, not a homogeneous central department.'

One of my concerns in the past has been that some quangos have become (or have been set up as) advocacy bodies and in general I do not think this is a proper role for publicly funded bodies. I do see them as being of value in performing regulatory tasks where ministerial intervention should be confined to clearly defined and limited grounds.

The Coalition Government was hoping to save £1bn from its bonfire of quangos, but Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude had to admit that the savings were 'hard to quantify'.

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