Thursday, February 14, 2008


Labour's Quango Shame.

During the eighties and nineties I recall working quite an indignant head of steam over the Tories' use of Quangos.

[Quangos-what they? officially the government defined them as: "A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm's length from Ministers."]

The key thing was that these were appointed not elected boards tasked with running public services. They were a means for the Tories, I argued, and wrote at the time, of sidestepping the democratic process, removing accountability for billions of public expenditure, while rewarding with chairmanships and membership, former Conservative politicians. I was not alone. In 1995, the Shadow Chancellor, one Gordon Brown called for a: "a bonfire of the quangos and greater democracy".

However we still await such a 'bonfire'. The Daily Mail todaypoints out that while quangos disbursed £24.1bn in 1997, by 2007 expenditure had increased seven times to £167.5bn. The Economic Research Council's recent report shows that: 200 additional quangos have been created in the past two years; staff(mostly from the Home Counties) employed by these bodies have leapt over the past decade and the table above shows; and pay for chairmen has rocketed to sums like the £273,000 paid to Ken Boston, head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Public bodies are only established where this is the most effective and efficient method of conducting government business." but i suspect most will tend to agree with Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, who comments: "Some of these are enormously powerful bodies that dispose of vast quantities of money, are largely unaccountable and are often staffed with extremely highly paid executives, yet they produce results of questionable merit."

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