Bonfire of the Quangos

Shock horror, the  Commons Public Administration Select Committee has stated that the coalition has “poorly managed” it’s much publicised “bonfire of the quangos”.

All the rhetoric now so familiar with many of the err. .  policy pronouncements . . . before the election of the coalition parties, has again been shown as nothing more than populist nonsense with little grasp of reality.

On the face of it, the idea of removing unelected bodies spending millions of pounds of taxpayers money at the arms length of government intervention and little parliamentary accountable seems laudable. However, as with many ideas born out of pure populism and policy made on the back of beer mats, the reality is often somewhat different.

It is clear that as soon as the coalition looked closely at the quangos work, rather than finding that they didn’t do any useful job, they found that most actually do important jobs throughout the country and that there is no easy alternative to them, and ironically they give reasonable value for money.  What should have happened was a thorough investigation into the running; organisational arrangements and  accountability of all quangos to see how these first of all could be improved, and how costs could be reduced or better value for money attained. Instead the coalition panicked realising the complicated nature of the problem and just axed 192 quangos on the basis of ideology and electoral populism without finding out who would perform their role when they were gone and whether the changes would provide any better value for money. Indeed these changes may well cost the taxpayer more money and not provide any better service.

In short, this process was a complete waste of time and probably money. The Parliamentary Committee has confirmed what many of us already knew. Even the Conservative Chairman of the committee, Bernard Jenkin has 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. . . . . . . I suspect that in the short term the reorganisation will now cost more than it will save. This was put together on the hoof and can be much improved for future reviews.”

Hopefully this will be an example of the exception rather than the norm of coalition decision making over the coming months, however the gap between the rhetoric and promises made before the election compared to after the election is becoming ever wider.

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