Bonfire of the quangos
The Government has announced that its "bonfire of the quangos" is on track to save the taxpayer GBP2.6 billion. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said that 106 of the more than 900 bodies in existence at the general election have now been axed. Mergers have cut numbers by a further 80.
In response to the announcement Tom Gash, Programme Director at the Institute for Government and co-author of Read Before Burning, said:
“Francis Maude claimed the primary exercise here was not about saving money, but improving the accountability and effectiveness of quangos, but today we hear about billions of savings through a slash and burn exercise. If the figures do stand up to scrutiny and there has been no decrease in government performance in services, this is a good thing but the reliability of the savings claimed is questionable. Slash and burn exercises have proved counter-productive in the past and can even incur more costs in the long-run, as we argued in our report Read Before Burning. Savings or not, the real problem still remains – that government departments do not manage their quangos as effectively as they could.
“As the NAO reported earlier this year, the government does not have a robust way of measuring and tracking savings and there appears to have been no attempt to assess whether these savings had had an impact on performance. It’s also not clear whether savings couldn’t have been achieved without the disruption of dozens of time-consuming structural reorganisations.
“The announcement also wrongly implies that quangos are universally problematic, which does nothing to improve public confidence in public services. This is not the case – as the government clearly recognises in its trumpeting of the achievements of two quangos (the Olympic Delivery Authority and LOCOG) in ensuring a successful Olympic Games.”
“Government should focus the long-term challenge – making sure that arm’s-length bodies, departments and the public are clear on the functions each quango performs and how well they are doing and, cost savings or not, this is still a job to be done.”