When the Coalition came to power in 2010, it outlined a series of measures to reform arm’s-length government in the UK, popularly characterised as another “bonfire of the quangos”. The Institute warned of the dangers of treating ALB reform as a numbers game and called for more fundamental reform instead of another cull.
As the 2015 election approaches this report considers the progress that has been made since we made our recommendations. Although there have been some positive steps the fundamental problems that we identified in 2010 have not been resolved.
We make four recommendations that the next government, whatever its composition, should act on to truly reform arm’s-length government in the UK:
- The Cabinet Office should refine and expand the triennial review process which reviews the whether an arm’s-length body is fit for purpose and its justification for remaining at arm’s-length.
- The Cabinet Office must use its ongoing review of classification to create a new, simpler taxonomy for arm’s-length bodies, such as the one proposed by the Institute and endorsed by Public Administration Select Committee. The taxonomy must be endorsed by the next government within six months of its formation and implemented in full in the next parliament.
- The Cabinet Office and the sponsorship champion should continue to promote the spread of best practice, focusing particularly on strengthening sponsorship capability across Whitehall.
- Relevant select committees should be granted an effective veto power over appointments to public bodies which operate as ‘independent public interest bodies’ (this includes independent watchdogs, regulatory regime setters and guarantors of standards) These committees should also have the power to veto dismissals from the same posts.