Public bodies - known in government as Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) - are a contested part of the government landscape. We have conducted research on ALBs and, with the Public Chairs Forum (PCF), the Institute for Government explores practical ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of their governance.

'Arm's-length body' is a general term, used to cover at least 11 types of organisation which operate at varying, and often contested, degrees of independence from government. They range from big organisations employing thousands of public servants and administering billions of pounds of public money, to small advisory committees with no independent budget. They regulate some of the most sensitive areas of public and private activity.

At the same time they seem to suffer an ongoing crisis of legitimacy, as all political parties feel the need to rein in the quango state.

The Government has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda for these public bodies, and is subjecting many of their activities and spending to much closer scrutiny and controls than before.

The flux in ALB governance leads to challenges around making do with less, but also an opportunity to look again at how ALBs interact with central government and with their sponsoring departments.

Partnership with the Public Chairs' Forum

The Institute for Government works closely with the Public Chairs' Forum (PCF), who provide practical help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of public services in the UK. It is a member led, exclusive network for sharing information and resources for chairs of public bodies. 

Chris Banks CBE is the current Chair of the Public Chairs’ Forum and Emma Maloney is the manager of the PCF and is responsible for managing all aspects of PCF business.

Project contacts

Daniel Thornton
Programme Director