Francis Maude's quango quandary

7 January 2011
A number of quangos involved in procurement have already been or could yet fall victim to the UK government’s culling of a huge swathe of arms-length bodies. Now even the process of deciding which groups should stay or go has come in for criticism, and is accused of costing more than it will save. A cross-party Parliamentary select committee, dominated by Conservative MPs, said the review has been rushed and poorly handled. It said it had failed to achieve its two main aims: to improve accountability and reduce spending, and concluded the whole process was “botched”. But today on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme minister in charge, Francis Maude said the accusation that the reorganisation would cost more than the savings it would produce was “simply quite wrong”. “Of course there will be transient costs but the savings will be very significantly more,” he added. Prime Minister David Cameron initially said the reduction in the number of these groups would save £1 billion, but today Maude said it would be significantly more than that. “It would certainly be at least a billion and the savings we make from the whole landscape of quangos will be very significantly more.” Although it was “very hard to quantify” precise expected savings at this stage he said. Maude said groups that are left should be reviewed every three years to see if the case for remaining independent still exists. But it’s not only independence that needs protecting. The government may save money by culling these groups, but I’m yet to remain convinced it has considered the repercussions of other losses. Politics doesn’t give programmes much time to prove what they can do. Many projects are scrapped at the point where they have cost more than they have saved simply because the start up costs are always higher. But then government’s are not in the habit of playing the long-term game, business, however, should where it can.
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