Quango cull: Reaction in quotes
- 14 October 2010
- From the section UK Politics
The government has published a list of 192 quangos that will be axed or merged with other bodies. Here is a round-up of reaction to the announcement.
FRANCIS MAUDE, CABINET OFFICE MINISTER
Today's announcement means that many important and essential functions will be brought back into departments meaning the line of accountability will run right up to the very top where it always should have been. In many cases, today's proposals will ensure we preserve the quality of vital services, while allowing them to become more efficient and, where appropriate, giving more power to the front line professionals who know those services best.
LIAM BYRNE, SHADOW CABINET OFFICE MINISTER
Labour had a plan for steadily saving £0.5bn by carefully closing 25% of quangos over the next few years. The Tories now need to tell us whether their desperation for headlines and faster cuts means the cost of closing quangos is actually bigger than the savings. And while they're at it, they should tell us whether their manifesto commitment for 20 new quangos is now on ice.
TONY WOODLEY, UNITE JOINT GENERAL SECRETARY
The fact that Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude is unable to say how much will be saved and how many jobs will be affected by this cull shows the threadbare nature of the thinking behind these abolition plans. There has been little or no consultation on these proposals from this 'we are all in this together' government. In many areas of the economy and social policy, quangos are important in protecting the economically vulnerable, the put-upon consumer and acting as economic generators. For example, the Agricultural Wages Board protects hundreds of thousands of rural workers from wage poverty; Consumer Focus helps redress the imbalance between the individual consumer and the power of the utility companies; and the regional development agencies bring money to the regions to kick-start the much needed drive for economic growth and the accompanying extra jobs. Unite, along with other trade unions, voluntary organisations and consumer groups, will be leading the opposition to the threatened job losses and raising pertinent questions as to why certain quangos are being cut. This is another case of the coalition putting ideology before rational analysis and the cuts agenda before the needs of citizens.
EMMA BOON, TAXPAYERS' ALLIANCE
It's good news to hear the government is taking action on trimming the quango state. But the parlous state of the public finances means that this can't just be more idle talk, ministers shouldn't be allowed to quietly shift the functions of redundant bodies elsewhere. A proper assessment of what the state should and shouldn't be doing is badly needed, and politicians need to be open and honest about their intentions with these bodies. Britain is going to need a leaner and more efficient state in the difficult years ahead and today's announcements are a good start - but there is certainly more low-hanging fruit to pick. What's more, quangos must become more regularly accountable to the taxpayers that so generously fund them year after year.
CHRISTINE BLOWER, NATIONAL UNION OF TEACHERS
While not every quango is perfect, axing or reviewing practically all of them is not the answer. Michael Gove's justification of putting school leaders and teachers back in control of school improvements simply does not stand up. Keeping Ofsted in its current form will do none of this. This is a body which presently rides roughshod over schools being able to decide the best practice for themselves and their pupils. In the absence of properly constituted negotiation about pay and conditions at national level, which the NUT would prefer, we welcome the retention of the School Teacher Review Body. Having expert bodies looking into issues such as teenage pregnancy are not wasteful luxuries but provide an important source of information and support for schools.
BARONESS EATON, LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION
Councils have been campaigning for years to cut the number of unaccountable quangos and give local people power over the services that matter to them. As we face the toughest spending review in memory it simply isn't acceptable to have decisions over help for millions of people made by unelected officials remote from the front line and it is good that ministers have recognised this. There are some sensible decisions here such as putting council trading standards at the centre of enforcing almost all UK consumer law. Having government recognise officers' expertise in enforcing important regulatory functions is a clear statement of faith in councils' ability to deliver. However, there are still questions to be answered on the future of education funding quangos and others such as the Homes and Communities Agency. The acid test will be whether ministers allow decisions to be taken at the front line by locally-elected people who know their neighbourhoods best, or simply replace unaccountable quangos with unelected civil servants in Whitehall. Our plans for a reformed system to devolve power to local people and give them a real say over the things that matter would save up to £20bn and help protect frontline services. Tidying up budgets to simply save a tiny fraction of that is not an option.
CHRIS SIMPKINS, ROYAL BRITISH LEGION
We believe this decision (to scrap plans for a chief coroner in England and Wales) would be a deep betrayal of bereaved service families. It may be that ministers have not appreciated the ramifications of such a decision on bereaved armed forces families. That's why we're writing to the prime minister about this and have already raised it with the leader of the oppposition. We anxiously await a response that will satisfy us that the interests of service families will be represented. The Legion is calling on the Prime Minister to intervene before charities meet with the Justice Minister on October 25. The Legion campaigned long and hard as part of its campaign to honour the Military Covenant for reforms to the inquest process - to guarantee bereaved service families a modern, thorough and transparent investigation. The chief coroner's office and role are absolutely central to this.
PRITI PATEL, CONSERVATIVE MP, SPEAKING IN THE COMMONS
Will you (Francis Maude) join me in welcoming the complete abolition of the Union Modernisation Fund Supervisory Board which wasted hard-earned taxpayers' money holding secret meetings in expensive hotels to effectively hand over taxpayers' money to the trade unions? Will you give an assurance you will take action to prevent such an abuse of taxpayers' money happening again?
BOB CROW, RAIL MARITIME AND TRANSPORT UNION
The scrapping of the Union Modernisation Fund shows why we were right to block moves to invite government ministers to address the TUC. This is a Government prepared to wage war on working people. Today's announcement reinforces that point and sets the tone for what we can expect from them in the future.
FRANCES CROOK, HOWARD LEAGUE FOR PENAL REFORM
The youth justice board is being abolished as part of the bonfire of the quangos. The track record of the YJB has been pretty poor in that it has failed to protect children in custody, reduce the unnecessary use of custody and influence practitioner and public attitudes to children in conflict with the criminal law. However, the big question is whether transferring the responsibility for children back into the ministry of justice will improve the treatment of children. Instead of expanding the machinery to deal with children in the criminal justice system it would be both cheaper and more effective - providing enhanced public safety - if we raised the age of criminal responsibility to take children out to the criminal justice system altogether.
GEOFF MARTIN, HEALTH EMERGENCY (NHS PRESSURE GROUP)
Health Emergency has no objection to eliminating waste and bureaucracy but there is a real danger that the important work of some of these so-called quangos will be buried or lost entirely when it is merged into the centre or broken up into fragments. If the government want to make real savings on waste when it comes to health they should take an axe to the whole culture of management consultancy and the on-going rip-off of the Private Finance Initiative that bleeds billions out of the NHS and into the profits of private companies. It's easy to grab a few headlines by knocking off a bunch of soft targets but these bodies are small fry compared to the corporate greed-merchants making a killing out of the NHS and who the government plan to hand even more work to through their ill-conceived health White Paper.
NIGEL EDWARDS, NHS CONFEDERATION
It is for government to decide how it organises its functions and holds them to account but there is no doubt that many of the bodies being abolished today have performed valuable technical, leadership and administrative roles during their time. The task now is to ensure that the skills developed by the people working with these bodies, as well as their expertise and organisational memory, is retained for the good of the health service and that the important functions they carried out are transferred effectively.
ANNA BIRD, THE FAWCETT SOCIETY
The abolition of the Women's National Commission will make it that much harder for government to devise informed policy that reflects the unique position of women in the UK. This decision also gives a clear indicator of the priority the new coalition attaches to furthering equality in the UK. When times are tight it becomes more, not less important to ensure the vulnerable in our society are supported. We call on the Government to ensure that in abolishing the WNC, they don't also lose the unique things the WNC did - in particular, providing a dialogue between government and women to directly influence government policy.