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Taming the Quango state

Hannigfield In the second of his localism series the Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield wants the power to hold Quangos to account.

David Cameron’s promise of a bonfire of the quangos is welcome indeed. We have seen, in recent years, a significant increase in the number of these bodies which, frankly, have all too often operated out of sight
of the scrutinising public eye. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, but it is yet to cleanse many of these obscure (and unelected) corridors of power.

This is why we have taken the opportunity, in the Sustainable Communities Act to bring forward proposals to increase the accountability of such quangos.

Our proposal will ensure accountability and performance standards of local government agencies and service providers - allowing ECC to guarantee quality of service to our residents.

Under our scheme, ECC would be empowered to negotiate and enforce a set of local performance standards for selected government agencies and non-departmental public bodies. Subsequently, where organisations
fail to meet these standards, ECC will be develop mechanisms to ensure that appropriate services are delivered. This might mean devolving responsibility to appropriate local providers or partnerships or bringing services under the auspices of democratically elected councils.

We envisage that local performance standards would be agreed between ECC and the Homes and Communities Agency; Environment Agency; Highways Agency; East of England Development Agency; Arts Council England East; Sport England East; Natural England; English Heritage; Business Link East; East of England Tourism and East of England International.

This proposal has been developed for two principal reasons.  First, we are keen to ensure that Essex communities receive the highest standards of service, regardless of which organisation has delivery responsibility.  Secondly, we see a role for local authorities, as elected community leaders, in holding service providers to account. In this respect we see the agreement and enforcement of minimum standards as an extension of the ECC scrutiny function.  We are keen that those government agencies and non-departmental public bodies that affect outcomes for local communities are subject to performance requirements determined by those communities.

> Lord Hanningfield's first post yesterday argued for devolution of benefit setting to local councils


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