I was most grateful for Reform's invitation to hear David Cameron talk on quangos today. They have done and continue to do terrific work on how to reform the Public Sector. As a small think tank on a micro budget (and yet the No. 2 google search ranking on quangos behind wikipedia thanks to our online database), I'm always struggling to get my voice heard so I was disappointed that in the very well attended Q&A session afterwards, I didn't get to ask my question. So I thought I'd post it here along with some background information.
Should you win the next General Election, will you order the Cabinet Office to restore a full annual Public Bodies report, that includes not only the 790 bodies in England but the roughly 200 or so in the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Background context - the declining volume of accessible information on quangos:
Basically, there has not been a proper report since the financial year 2005/06 and at no time has it included Scotland or Wales (apart from Boundary Commissions, a handful of advisory committees and Agricultural Wages Committees - how Soviet ! ). It merely includes just some of Northern Ireland and all bodies in England.
Liberally lifted from my blog earlier this year, this his how the rot of de-accountabilitisation of our quangocracy started to set in . . .
- In 2004, the last annual hard copy directory of Quangos was physically published.
- In 2005, this was downgraded to a pdf.
- In 2006, the online database of which gave crude year on year figures was “discontinued”.
- In 2006 the Government Financial Reporting Manual changed the accounting rules so that government spending on quangos or “grant-in-aid” is reclassified as a financing transaction rather than income. That made comparing year-on-year figures very difficult between financial years 2005/06 and 2006/07 and is part of the reason why the Cabinet Office chose not to do so the following year.
- In 2007, the Public Bodies Team – the outfit responsible for keeping track of quangos – was disbanded without replacement. So consequently...
- In 2008, the annual public bodies report for 2006/2007 was scaled back to a mere 30 or so pages from the more usual 400. Expenditure figures were only given for one quarter of the bodies, along with no individual data on any of the quangos as per previous years – data which we showed in our online quangos database for 1998-2006 – see here.
All official public bodies reports back to 1998 available here for England and much of Northern Ireland (the government has changed the link yet again). The Welsh Assembly do not publish a single report and should do - their quangos are here. The Scottish Administration - ditto for them and available here. And Northern Ireland, really a lot for 1.7 million people.