24 Sep 2010

Quango cuts: leak suggests 177 to go

A leaked report suggests 177 organisations face the axe and a further 30 under government review. However the head of one of the threatened bodies told Channel 4 News the move would not save money.

177 quangos are to be abolished and a further 94 are still under threat, according to a Cabinet Office list compiled this week and published in the Daily Telegraph.

Among the 177 bodies said to be facing the axe is the Health Protection Agency, which advises on infectious diseases and environmental hazards, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology authority, which regulates fertility clinics.

More than 50 of the bodies to be axed have responsibilities linked to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Another 30 bodies will be cut or have their functions returned to the Department of Health.

The BBC World Service and the British Council are two bodies whose future is still under review. The BBC World Service is not funded via the licence fee but via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, from which it receives £272m a year.

Where the axe will fall:
Human fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Health Protection Agency, Commission for Rural Communities, Audit Commission, UK film council, Commission for Integrated Transport, School Food Trust, Sustainable Development Commission.

Future undecided:
BBC World Service, British council, Environment Agency, Competition commission, Design council, Energy Savings Trust, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Forestry Commission, Office for Fair Trading
National Museums and Galleries service.

Other organisations whose fate has yet to be decided include the Environment Agency, the Competition Commission, the Design Council, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Forestry Commission and the Office for Fair Trading.

The National Lottery Commission will be merged with the Gambling Commission as one single regulator, according to the leaked document.

350 bodies are said to have been spared the axe. They include the employment mediation service Acas and the Food Standards Agency.

A Whitehall source is reported to have said: “These reforms represent the most significant rolling back of bureaucracy and the state for decades. Our starting point has been that every quango must not only justify its existence, but its reliance on public money.”

However Lisa Jardine of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority told Channel 4 News that any move to scrap her organisation was about rationalisation.

“All the regulation that we do will continue to be done, she said.

“This is not about money. It is about rationalisation and accountability.

“I think our functions will be absorbed into a huge quango.”

The number of taxpayer-funded bodies soared under Labour to cost an estimated £65bn a year and employ more than 100,000 people.

The government said it would not comment on the leaked document.

However a Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “The Government has made it clear that it is committed to radically increasing accountability and improving efficiency. As part of this, work is already under way to make substantial reforms to its public bodies.”