Thursday, 23 August 2012

You know when you've been quango'd...

What's a quick and easy way to look efficient at reining in Government spending? Scrap quangos, of course.

Everyone knows how much taxpayers money they waste, so the more scrapped the better, surely?

Well here's a great little wheeze: How about scrapping ones that don't actually cost much, or indeed anything, then citing these bureaucratic bargains as prime examples of past largesse?

Well, I hear you say, that would be a bit disingenuous to say the very least. Quite so, reader, but could this be what our Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has been up to?

Consider the following from his article yesterday.

"What we found were hundreds of quangos that should have been abolished or merged together. It’s hard to imagine why Ministers didn’t do this before. The more bizarre sounding bodies included the Darwin Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Packaging, the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines, and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Advisory Body – or WAB for short. All of those have gone."

Of course in time an FOI will find all we need to know about how much we save by scrapping said quangos. But for the time being, consider the following.

According to figures given in a written PQ, in the year 2010/11 both the Darwin Advisory Committee (scrapped Jan 2011) and the Advisory Committee on Packaging (Scrapped April 2011) had neither and employee nor a penny in funding between them. (Apparently they are listed as having no staff because they "utilise a minimal secretariat function provided by staff employed within the core Department.")

As for the Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines a PQ from 2007 explains that its chairman is unpaid, claiming only expenses for the four meetings a year. The Committee itself at the time of the PQ had no budget, although what costs there were were met out of the budget of Government Hospitality.

Which leaves the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Advisory Body according to Government estimates, they will save about £40,000 over the entire spending review period.

While I would like to know what gets claimed in the way of expenses on the Wine Advisory Committee, we may be looking here at a chunk of money that would barely pay a Cabinet Office Minister's salary for a year.

So just how many of the numbers being cut, are in fact cut price quangos? Here's a list of ones that I have found so far which ministers indicate will be 'cost neutral' (ie save nothing). There may be more, I just won't have time to cross reference the full list for a few days.

From Defra

  • Advisory Committee on Organic Standards
  • Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances
  • Zoos Forum
  • Veterinary Residues Committee
  • Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee
  • Pesticides Residues Committee
  • National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources
  • Farm Animal Welfare Council
  • Darwin Advisory Committee
  • Air Quality Expert Group

Here's a list of those that DCMS said had 'little or no cost'
  • Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships
  • Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites:
  • Legal Deposit Advisory Panel:

From BIS
  • Abolition of the Union Modernisation Fund Supervisory Board
  • Abolition of the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property
  • Hearing Aid Council
This is not to say the savings claimed are wrong. It's just when there is talk of losing 100 organisations in a 'Bonfire of the Quangos', it seems fair to say that in some cases we don't actually have that much money to burn.

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