It takes two

How to create effective relationships between government and arm’s-length bodies
Date: 
23 March 2012
Authors: 
Jill Rutter, Rosa Malley, Amy Noonan, William Knighton

Our new report looks at what is needed for effective relations between departments and arm’s-length bodies (ALBs). It is part of a project we have undertaken with the Public Chairs’ Forum and is accompanied by two other outputs:

  • A framework for effective relations which departments and ALBs can act on now
  • A self-assessment tool departments and ALBs can use to test their relationship. This will be launched shortly.

This report provides the background to the building blocks in the framework, based  on interviews with chairs, chief executives and departmental sponsors. It builds on our earlier report, Read Before Burning (July 2010) and looks both at the problems the report identified and at the changes since that report was written.

 It also looks at changes that could be made to put relations between government and ALBs to put them onto a sounder footing in the longer term. Those recommendations include:

  • Departments should adopt a ‘dynamic differentiated’ approach to managing their portfolio of ALBs based on both the required degree of independence but also the ‘risk’ the ALB poses to departmental/government objectives. This assessment should be done jointly with the ALB and should be reviewed regularly.
  • An upgrading of sponsorship skills in departments, with some departments becoming centres of expertise.
  • A more transparent and public accountability framework for big ALBs by upgrading business plans and presenting them to Parliament.
  • The involvement of ALBs in future development both of the centre’s data requirement and the control framework.
  • Guidance for ministers on their role in respect of departmental ALBs.
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