In October, the collation government announced plans to reduce the number of Quangos from 901 to 648 through a combination of abolitions and mergers ,a damning report from MPs concluded that the Coalition should have transferred the powers of hundreds of arms-length public bodies to charities and mutuals. Instead, their functions are in many cases simply being transferred to government departments or other organisations.
MPs say the potential for cost savings was ‘probably exaggerated’ in pre-election promises and that reducing spending required more fundamental decisions about rolling back the functions of the State.
Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“The whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more. This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the Big Society and save money at the same time, but it has been botched.
The inquiry found that the tests used to evaluate each public body “may have seemed superficially plausible at the outset, but they are hopelessly unclear” and that the Cabinet Office failed to establish a proper procedure for departments to follow and there was no system of consultation with the bodies concerned or with the public.
PASC also raises concerns that the Bill, as originally drafted, does not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent the misuse of powers by ministers.
The Committee is calling on the Government to re-examine the proper governance arrangements for each public body.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude rejected the criticisms, denying that the process had been rushed and saying that despite the initial costs, the plans would realise more than Ã‚Â£1 billion in savings.
In a statement he added: “We fundamentally do not agree with the committee that our reform will not improve accountability. We remain committed to seeing it through and making the reforms that the British public demand, and to stopping the meddling and expense created by unaccountable bureaucrats.”