Government scraps 192 quangos

Fires burn in and around Whitehall as 'bonfire of the quangos' gets under way
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Our colleagues on the Guardian have obtained a ful ist of quangos on the list to be scrapped, read it by following this link.

The government today delivered its promised "bonfire of the quangos", abolishing 192 government agencies, merging another 118 and substantially reforming a further 171.

Thousands of jobs will go and as many will be transferred into new departments. It amounts to the biggest shakeup of government the coalition has made to date.

Health bodies are dealt a particularly heavy blow with the Health Protection Agency being scrapped and its functions brought into the Department of Health. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the Human Genetics Commission and the Human Tissue Authority will all be scrapped.

The BBC World Service and the British Council have both won reprieves and the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be retained, though its regulatory functions will be substantially changed and its budget is expected to be dramatically reduced.

The government is now emphasising that the reforms are to drive accountability of the organisations, rowing back from previous claims that they it would save money. Many of the closures are not expected to save money for many years after their liabilities in pensions, redundancies and contracts are paid. Labour accused the coalition of "chasing headlines" by making the closures.

Overall, 901 bodies will be reduced to 648. However, 40 are still under review. Among the most prominent organisations affected are:

• British Nuclear Fuels Limited will be abolished.

• The Competition Commission will merge with the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading.

• Consumer Focus, the consumer rights group, will transfer to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

• Design Council and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), will become charities.

• British Waterways will be abolished as a public corporation in England and Wales and a new waterways charitable trust will be created – similar to a National Trust.

• The Environment Agency will be substantially reformed with further announcements in the spending review.

• The Student Loans Company, responsible for delayed loan payments to thousands of students last year, is still under review and could be axed.

• The Youth Justice Board, set up by Jack Straw to oversee crime prevention and custody of under 18s, is to be abolished. The National Women's Commission is to be abolished and its functions transferred to the Government Equalities Office. The Security Industry

Authority, which regulates the private security industry, will be abolished.

In a statement to the Commons the Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, said that every body had been vetted to assess whether it provided a crucial technical function or requires political accountability or independence to carry out its work.

Maude said: "We know that for a long time there has been a huge hunger for change. People have been fed up with the old way of doing business, where the ministers they voted for could often avoid taking responsibility for difficult and tough decisions by creating or hiding behind one of these quangos.

"Today's announcement means that many important and essential functions will be brought back into departments meaning the line of accountability will run right up to the very top where it always should have been.

"There are of course organisations that will remain, although it is unlikely that any will be completely unchanged. This is because we recognise that some of these bodies do hugely important and essential work that has to be done at arm's length from government, especially when political impartiality, independence or technical expertise is required.

"But those that remain will not be allowed to go back to the old way of working. As part of the reforms, we will also be introducing new transparency requirements, a new governance framework and a new review process to ensure that there is a robust and regular challenge of the continuing need for all the public bodies that remain."

He went on: "While today's changes will help us move quickly to a new era of accountability in government, we recognise that there will be significant changes for many staff, who have done an enormous amount of excellent work for their organisations. We also want to recognise the public service given by members of boards and committees. We will continue to do all we can to work with their chief executives, chairs and management teams to ensure any change is conducted as fairly and as smoothly as possible."

Liam Byrne MP, Labour's shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said: "Labour had a plan for steadily saving £0.5bn by carefully closing 25% of quangos over the next few years.

"The Tories now need to tell us whether their desperation for headlines and faster cuts means the cost of closing quangos is actually bigger than the savings. And while they're at it, they should tell us whether their manifesto commitment for 20 new quangos is now on ice."

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