Press release

Next steps in the government’s quango reform programme

A new report shows progress on the government's quango reform programme.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A report published today by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, shows the progress on the government’s quango reform programme which is now more than half way through and which departments estimate will reduce the administrative cost of public bodies by at least £2.6 billion by 2015.

Public Bodies 2012

The report also shows that the workforce of public bodies will fall by around a third over the Spending Review period.

Public Bodies 2012 details the size, expenditure and membership of public bodies, and highlights the rapid progress that has been made in reforming the landscape. The report shows that reforms driven by the Cabinet Office have enabled government departments to reduce the number of bodies by over 200 since May 2010.

The data is presented in a format that enables people to quickly search for information about public bodies - a key step in making them more open and transparent.

The report also provides details of the next public bodies to be reviewed as part of the government’s commitment that all public bodies will undergo regular and systematic assessment once every three years. These Triennial Reviews will challenge public bodies to ensure they provide value for money to the taxpayer and will encourage departments to think innovatively about the way they deliver services. Any bodies that do not pass the review will be disbanded to prevent the public bodies landscape spreading out of control in the future.

The reform of these public bodies increase accountability and improve public services, and will save taxpayers money. This programme forms a crucial part of the wider Cabinet Office work on Efficiency and Reform currently underway.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, said:

Instead of just talking about the reform of public bodies, this government carried out the biggest reform in a generation. We acted swiftly to close down unnecessary public bodies and ensure that those that remain are fit to deliver public services efficiently and effectively. By reducing duplication, waste and unnecessary bureaucracy departments tell us they are well on track to reduce the administrative cost of public bodies by at least £2.6 billion by 2015.

Today’s announcement shows we are more transparent about quangos than any government before. But there is still a long way to go and our reviews will routinely test whether each public body is fit for purpose and providing the value for money that the taxpayer expects.

We can also announce that the workforce numbers in scope of the Public Bodies Reform programme are projected to reduce by approximately 29% over the Spending Review period - more than was expected”.

Many public bodies are already implementing innovative measures that are leading to increased savings and better quality services to taxpayers. For example, the responsibility for running the country’s canals and waterways has been transferred from a quango, to one of Britain’s largest charities, the Canals & Waterways Trust. This was a radical move, which opened up the way for volunteers and local communities to take more responsibility for these valuable national assets.

Chris Banks CBE, Chair of the Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF), said:

The publication of Public Bodies 2012 signals a new approach to the reform of public services and makes important steps in improving transparency and accountability. Too often there is confusion relating to the role, function and number of public bodies (specifically NDPBs) and this resource adds welcome clarity and explanation, putting good public information about public bodies all in one place.

Public Bodies 2012 also underlines the importance of departments and public bodies working together. Effective relationships are absolutely fundamental to improving the delivery and reform of important public services. The PCF and its members are committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public services and as part of this drive, we are working with Chairs of public bodies on further ideas for radical reform.

The Civil Service Reform Plan published earlier this summer affects arms-length bodies like quangos, ensuring that improvements in accountability, efficiency and the quality of public services are embedded throughout the wide public sector.

Notes to editors

  1. The Cabinet Office-led review in 2010 has enabled departments to close 114 quangos - putting it more than halfway through its total planned closure programme. Other reforms have taken place, which include more than 150 bodies being merged into fewer than 70. The public bodies landscape will be reduced by over 300 bodies by the end of the Spending Review period in 2014-15.
  2. The Cabinet Office has driven the reforms to the public bodies landscape, enabling departments to close down or merge the public bodies for which they are responsible. The Public Bodies Act provided the legal framework that allowed the Government to carry out its public bodies reforms. The Act enables the reforms to public bodies to be implemented where legislation is needed. Some bodies that are to be reformed were set up in legislation, so new powers were needed to be able to abolish or merge them, transfer or devolve their functions, or reform the way they operate.
  3. The government will achieve a net reduction of at least £2.6 billion in the administrative costs of public bodies in the scope of the review over the Spending Review period. This is based on information provided by departments in March 2011, using methodology developed in line with the Spending Review. This savings figure is net of the expected costs of delivering our reforms which we estimate will be between £600m and £900m.5. The Public Bodies series of reports have been produced annually by the Cabinet Office since 1980, although publication was suspended in 2010-11 because of the review of the public bodies landscape and subsequent reforms.
Published 28 December 2012