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How to abolish a public body: Ten lessons from previous restructures

How the government can make future abolitions succeed.

Public Health England
Public Health England was an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care. It was abolished in 2021.

The “bonfire of the quangos” has seen the number of arms-length bodies fall by more than half since 2010. But despite conducting hundreds of abolitions over the past decade, the government currently provides little guidance on how ministers, public body staff and civil servants should approach such changes. This report fills that gap.  

It analyses the abolition of a number of major public bodies, including Public Health England, the UK Border Agency and the Audit Commission, based on interviews with key figures involved.  

The report shows that public body abolitions can be genuinely transformative processes, saving public money and improving how services are delivered. For example, the abolition of JobCentre Plus helped DWP cut its workforce and office space by a third, while the abolition of the Hearing Aid Council saved regulated companies hundreds of pounds each year. But it warns that successful abolitions are difficult to achieve, and rely on ministers gaining a proper understanding of the body in advance of abolition, and communicating well with staff. 

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