Quango contango

Amidst all the debate about whether the government has culled enough quangos, and as we await news of how much money they will save from the changes, there are some welcome developments. The government does seem to be against spending our money on creating or sustaining public bodies whose task is to lobby the government.

In a Parliamentary democracy people already pay their money to have a voice. They each have an MP who can be their voice when they wish to make a point to governemnt. They are also invited to send in their views on particular issues as they arise, by governments who open consultations, issue Green and White Papers and make themselves available to listen to view points. Many MPs in the Commons specialise in particular subjects, acting as a further national voice for particular views and interest groups. Some people, charities and national organisations speak up for groups of people, or take up the cases of those who would find it difficult to do it for themselves.

I am glad to see the back of the Regional Development Agencies confirmed. I do not wish to see the South East re-create one by the back door – there should be some real savings from the abolition. I do not mourn the end of the Youth Jutsice Board, the Audit Commission or the Agricultural Wages Boards.

I also look forward to some of the mergers. Not only should they produce savings, but they should also function better. Merging the Office of Fair Trading with the Competition Commission should mean quicker results from enquiries, and the ending of what amounts to two enquiries on the same issue each time.

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19 Comments

  1. WitteringsfromWitney
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood,

    First, "They each have an MP who can be their voice when they wish to make a point to governemnt." begs the question I posed to David Cameron last week at his surgery. To whom am I speaking, my constituency MP or my PM? If the latter then how can my case be made in Parliament? The reply – both, but national policy must come first.

    IanPJ on Politics and I contend this quango cull to be a political 'slight of hand' as stated in
    ( a website I cannot access via the link)

  2. ferdinand
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    In general your comments are sound. My worry is that public entities being detatched from competition do not have the incentive to control costs and maximise output. Although the quangos may disappear or be meregd there will be tremendous incentives to continue tasks to justify jobs. I hope you are right.

  3. Ron
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    You will never get another time as now to restructure our economy. Despite labour and union objections most moderately minded citizens know that we have been spening too much and that it is time to re-assess. i think they are even taking measures now to cope.So why tiptoe throught the tulips still?

    Similarly you will never get another opportunity as now to address the EU budget, yet again you all tiptoe. Have you not realised that unless some one stands up to Europe, as Margaret Thatcher did, very strongly indeed, you will continue to get flattened by the Federal Juggernaut? Any one who believes otherwise that the EU is on the Federal route to a superstate should be sectioned.

    I guarantee you that within 20 years you will have changed nothing within the EU and further more the pound will definitely be slipping out the back door to be replaced by the Euro. All great words about the EU from Cameron to get elected, just like any other politician. Their pledge to provide a bill to curtail the passage of any more powers is useless as you know John; the Lisbon treaty can take more powers form supposedly sovereign parliaments when it wants to. No further legislation is required. Their proposed EU bill is just a sop.

    Overall it's such a great pity that all these opportunities are being missed, but perhaps that's why Mick Clegg did th deal in the first place.

  4. Milton
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    The abolition of the “Gas Mantle standards Council” set up in 1820 is a mistake (in fact I’m incandescent about it)

    when Mr Huhne’s green energy policies lead to blackouts we may have to fall back onto this trusty technology.

    Anyway they only met every 50 years.

  5. Lottery Balls
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    There should be no payments to staff in quango's for redundancy above statutory level and a special state sector pension tax should limited pensions to the private sector limits circa £1.5M. Why should people from the BBC get pay off and pensions of £5M plus. Just for their services of endlessly dripping left wing views over the UK's population and children.

    Charity tax relief should be looked at too many charities are doing little useful but incubating discontent or paying high salaries to their staff or being government pressure groups.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Strange how all the talk now from the government about removing quangos is about accountability and not cost saving. Today they have "found" £7billion for education. We know that they intend to continue to spend more overall so the only way they are really going to stop "borrowing £1 for every £4 they spend" is by increasing our taxes. So much for the idea of the smaller state.

  7. Robert George
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    John, there is an implication in your first sentence that Quangos can be justified(or not) in economic terms alone. I do not think that goes far enough.

    Any Quango to be justifed must be so in economic terms but it should also paas the following tests:-

    1 Could the task be performed as well or better by private industry?

    2 Does the task need to be performed at all?

    Now apply those tests to the most notorious Quango of all, the BBC. One would have to answer yes to question 2 only, therefore there is no need for the BBC to exist. The Pension fund liabilities need to be dealt with. The saleable parts need to be sold and what are you left with? The BBC World Service.

    I do not believe this government is at all serious about cutting unnecessary Quangos until they rid the country of this cancerous relic and let a vigorous media replace it.

  8. simon
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I'm sure that the majority , maybe not vast majority , of quango's were performing a basically worthwhile function , regardless of whether they gave value for money .

    We are very much in the domain of the law of unintended consequences .

    How can we be sure that this abolition of UK quango's will not just lead to the vacuum being filled by EU departments and quango's ?

  9. forthurst
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Obviously there is weakness in a statutary body having the prerogative to lobby the government since it might have been constituted without a balance of specialist or independent opinions. There is also inate weakness in terms of the public interest from the lobbying by business interests or interests of foreign powers; these interests are very likely to be opposed diametrically to the public interest although their representations will be dressed up to appear to be at least of mutual benefit. It is essential therefore that the government goes out of its way to seek reasonable alternative views to that offered by professional lobbyists and to ensure that such scientific or financial or strategic data in support of a case has been rigourously derived and independently checked. In particular, I would like to believe that in the case of genetically modified seed, the public interest in terms of health and the environment is put well before the interests of business especially where there is bio-engineering of poisons and resisence to the effects of systemic poisons is concerned.

  10. English Pensioner
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    The Government also needs to address the issue of the various seemingly independent organisations, such as the Charity Commission, which have been used as tools for implementing unofficial government policies. The Charity Commission's action on the status of private fee-paying schools was clearly politically motivated – to anyone living in this area, the fact that we have several such schools is undoubtedly to the public good, whether they offer bursaries or not, as it means that council-tax payers are not having to help to pay for the education of these children along with the expansion of the local schools to accommodate them.
    And when the Government sets up an advisory committee on some subject, they need ensure it is genuinely independent, not merely designed to give credence to what the government has already decided to do, as seemed quite common practice under the last government.

  11. gadgie
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I'm not happy with English bodies being merged as uk bodies. this puts non English MP's in charge of English affairs.

  12. Tom_Shorrock
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree with those who hold the view that the Quango cull has more to do with the redistribution of power than the overall cost savings, which many regard as insignificant. However I also believe that this government has an almost unprecedented opportunity to redress and dismantle the excessive Soviet like, Big Brother, state imposed upon us by the previous disastrous administration.

    I hope that along with the removal of the overburdening regulators the Quangos had become, the shrinking of the civil service and the inevitable reductions in local council employees will mean that those who thought it was their job to tell us what to do will be consigned to the same bonfire. When we get to reducing the size of local government I would suggest that anyone whose job involves carrying a clipboard should be first on the list for review.

    While the overall savings the abolition of the Quangos brings may be small, it is worth remembering the perhaps apocryphal quote of an American financier who is reported to have commented “You save a million here, a couple or three million there and perhaps the odd billion elsewhere and suddenly you’re talking real money”.

  13. Acorn
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    It's a start JR, but some of these quangos are minor bodies, not big spenders. There are currently 1791 entities on the WGA list of counter-parties. I don't think all the little ones make it on to this list;. I assume they come under the fifty five parent bodies. It is worth having a look, just to spot your favourites for execution. There are still 59 public corporations to sell and 488 English local government entities to sort out! http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/wga_200910_list_o

  14. A.Sedgwick
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with you the people do not have a voice e.g. Iraq mass demonstration, reneging by all three controlling political parties on Lisbon Treaty, mass immigration, Afghanistan, capital punishment, unelected PMs.

    As to Quangos let them all and their directors run out of contract and then decide their future and construction.

    Reply: Nor did quangos provide a voice on these matters: some MPs have raised these issues.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I note that the Committee on Climate Change is retained "on the grounds of the need to act independently". It was set up by the monstrous Climate Change Act. (Asks how independent its members really are). From this outcome it appears that Mr Cameron is content for the nation to continue to be stitched up by the provisions of this Act – just as we are stitched up by the EU.

  16. Acorn
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    This is strictly for local government financial nerds. I post it just to emphasise how near impossible it will be, to introduce "local-ism" into local government. There is no chance that local government will ever get even half way near being locally financed. The following, thanks to the guys at WGA, show the funding streams into local government coffers, from five central government sources (counter-parties). You will see that your LG council tax, would not even cover the housing / council tax benefits it pays out. Don't bother asking your local councillor about it, they will not have a clue. http://www.communities.gov.uk/localgovernment/loc

  17. Richard
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I got good advice from an experienced Company Director many years ago which was, "never be afraid to tear it all up and start again".

    In other words, rather than just trying to fiddle about and cut a few of these Quangos, look again from the position of asking, do we need any of them?.

    We are soon going to face the greatest opposition and propaganda campaign ever seen, in order to bring the size of the State back to an affordable level.

    I just wonder if our current leaders have the metal to stand firm……..

  18. London Calling
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Quangos first, then please, start on the money-go-round where government departments dole out money to advocacy and campaign groups to lobby them to spend more money on their causes. Cut out the middle man: the NGO/campaigners.

    This applies specially to eco- campaigners, where DECC commissioned "research" on the effects of "climate change" (all payments revealed in the CRU leaked files) from (like minded-ed) academics to prop up suicidal energy policies. But they are all at it. Charity used to be personal giving to do good. Now its goverment paying for other organisation's press officers. Get back to the business of governing, not media management.

  19. adam
    Posted October 17, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    'The Food Standards Agency (FSA), which escaped last week's money-saving cull of public bodies, has also warned against eating anything that hasn't been washed or fruit that is "unhealthy looking" or "bruised".

    The advice was published on Thursday – the same day the Coalition announced plans to inject "common sense" into health and safety.

    Countryside campaigners dismissed the guidelines as "unnecessary rubbish" and said children had been picking blackberries and other fruit safely for centuries, using their common sense.'

    —-
    Hard at work. So glad we are paying for this sage research.
    Lets continue to cut science funding though, because science is useless.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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