The Department for Transport (DfT) today (14 October 2010) announced significant reforms to a number of its public bodies following a cross-government review.
The organisations to be abolished as public bodies are:
- Cycling England
- Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC);
- Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA);
- The Railway Heritage Committee;
- The Commission for Integrated Transport; and
BRB (Residuary) Ltd.
Key functions of Cycling England and RFA will be brought in-house and successor arrangements for DPTAC will be consulted on.
One further body - Passenger Focus - will be retained, but substantially reformed to focus on the core role of protecting passengers while reducing costs to taxpayers.
Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said:
Reducing the number of quangos on our books is vital to delivering transparent and accountable public services and will make an important contribution towards reducing the deficit.
We are ensuring that only those bodies that absolutely need to continue as independent bodies are retained either in their current form or significantly slimmed down. The remainder we will either scrap, reform, or arrange for their functions to be delivered in-house without the need for separate arms-length bodies.
I am confident that these reforms will significantly increase accountability, enhance public confidence in government and make important savings, whilst continuing to meet our responsibilities to the travelling public.
The move is part of the government-wide reform to increase accountability, deliver smaller government and improve efficiency, across Whitehall.
Cycling England was set up as the independent expert body to advise on the promotion of cycling. The government believes that this work can now be better delivered within the department through the newly announced Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Bikeability - cycle proficiency for the 21st Century - will be supported for the remainder of this Parliament. DfT is also considering establishing an expert panel on wider sustainable travel which would promote cycling as part of the wider green agenda.
The department will continue to ensure transport policies promote equality. However the legislation governing the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee is now 25 years old, and there is scope to reform the way disability advice is delivered to increase flexibility and accountability to the taxpayer. The department will therefore consult on successor arrangements.
The Renewable Fuels Agency administers the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation and provides a source of expert advice on biofuel sustainability but there is now scope to transfer its functions to the Department for Transport. The department will work with the RFA to consider how best to achieve this transition and to ensure that potential savings are realised.
The Railway Heritage Committee (RHC) is responsible for designating railway artefacts and records of historical importance. The government believes that the RHC can not be justified as no equivalent protection applies to the heritage of any other transport sector. The RHC will therefore be abolished.
The Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) was established in 1999 to provide independent advice to government on integrated transport policy in England via evidence-based research. However the department has concluded that the emphasis should now be on high-level strategic advice rather than detailed research. This can be achieved more cost effectively by the Department for Transport engaging directly with experts through a new informal strategic transport advisory group, rather than an arms length body.
BRB (Residuary) Ltd is responsible for discharging the residual functions of the British Railways Board following the divestment of British Rail’s operating railway functions in 1997. BRBR will be wound up in due course once its programme of asset disposals is complete and its remaining statutory functions will transfer to the direct control of the Department for Transport.
The Cabinet Office has published a full list of reforms to the government’s public bodies.
Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) or quangos (Quasi-autonomous non-government organisation) are defined as bodies which have a role in the processes of national government but are not government departments are not government departments or part of one and which accordingly operate to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from ministers. This includes:
- executive NDPBs, eg grant or service delivery, regulatory or training providers
- advisory NDPBs, e.g. scientific committees or pay review bodies;
- In addition, for this reform process some non-ministerial departments and some public corporations are being included in the scope.
Following this review process the department’s remaining public bodies are:
- British Transport Police Authority
- Channel Tunnel Section 1 Finance PLC
- Civil Aviation Authority
- Directly Operated Railways Ltd
- High Speed Two Ltd
- London and Continental Railways Ltd
- London and Continental Railways Finance PLC
- Northern Lighthouse Board
- Office of Rail Regulation
- Passenger Focus (Passengers’ Council)
- Traffic Commissioners and Deputies
- Trinity House Lighthouse Service
All of the retained bodies will have met one of the three tests of:
- performing a technical function
- requiring political impartiality
- needing to act independently to establish facts