Dennis Sewell

The quangocracy laid bare

The quangocracy laid bare
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At last the full facts about our burgeoning quango state are laid bare. The conclusion of a report published today by the TaxPayers’ Alliance is that it’s "big, bloated and more expensive than ever before."

The TPA document provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date listing available of all 1,152 'semi-autonomous public bodies' operating in the UK, along with details of how many staff each employs and how much they spend. More than £90 billion of taxpayers’ money was spent on or channelled through quangos/SAPBs in 2007-8 (up £13 billion on the year before). That’s equivalent to £3,640 for every household in the land.

The report’s authors say these facts have been kept hidden from Parliament and the public by the government’s habit of issuing ‘confusing and incomplete statistics’. At a time when big savings have to be made, the true facts need to be uncovered. Some months ago, David Cameron ordered his shadow cabinet to examine each quango within their portfolios and ask if it is really necessary. He should now tell his team them to repeat the exercise in the light of this report.

Some quangos duplicate the work of others. Many are just plain unnecessary.  The TPA lists a number of candidates suitable for the chop - including the Carbon Trust, which spends more than £93 million per annum dispensing advice to businesses on how to reduce their CO2 emissions; the National College for School Leadership, which spends an astonishing £83 million overcomplicating the jobs of headteachers; and the School Food Trust, which blows more than £6 million stating the bleedin’ obvious about the benefits of 5-a-day.

I suspect CoffeeHousers will have their own ideas about which quangos we could more happily live without. Personally, I’d start my own cull with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which isn’t just expensive and otiose; it’s socially pernicious.

In September, I argued in the Spectator that, despite the Nolan principles, the boards of quangos have been packed with Labour stooges.  I’m very pleased to see that the TPA has commissioned research into political cronyism in quango appointments and will be reporting soon.