A cross-party commons committee has argued that the government's process of scrapping quangos has been "botched", reports Chris Tarquini.
A cross-party commons committee has argued that the government’s process of scrapping quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations) was “poorly managed”. The public administration select committee has released a report, “Shrinking the Quango State“, which argues that the tests used to judge quangos were “hopelessly unclear”.
The fact that the committee chairman Bernard Jenkin is a Conservative MP may concern the government, as Mr Jenkin described the process as “rushed and poorly handled”, adding:
“This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the Big Society and save money at the same time, but it has been botched”
The report follows government plans announced in October to scrap 192 quangos, including the UK film council and the Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards, whilst 118 of them are to be merged.
Mr Jenkin stands by his comments, arguing that while “there is a cut in public spending taking place in quangos”, he criticised the process in which it has been done, in an interview on the BBC.
“The government raised expectations. David Cameron himself said getting rid of quangos would save billions of pounds before the election and when it came to the crunch the government set up a series of tests to see which bodies should continue or what should happen to each body and none of those tests were about value for money.
“None of them were about effectiveness. There was a test about whether it should exist at all and whether it should be independently establishing facts or whether it should be impartial and so on. These tests were rather vague and we found that they have been applied rather inconsitantly across government departments.
“Different government departments applied them in different ways, there was a lack of public consultation, a lot of public bodies weren’t consulted at all. When the government says a lot of bodies have been abolished, actually the functions have been kept but transferred into the government department.”
Respected think-tank The Institute for Government, which described the committee’s report as “very thorough”. In response to Mr Jenkin’s damaging remarks, an aide for Francis Maude, the cabinet minister responsible for scrapping the large number of quangos, dismissed the criticism, arguing:
“The committee has fundamentally misunderstood the process. The conclusions are absurd.”
Whilst the government may be trying to dismiss the criticisms of one of their flagship plans to reduce government waste, the fact that the questions are being asked from within their own party may raise concerns about the processes they are using in their ‘bonfire of the quangos‘.
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