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Academics Ask UKIP to specify exactly where the Axe will Fall

 

Recent research by the University of Sheffield and the University of Birmingham has tracked the coalition government’s ‘Public Bodies Reform Programme’ since May 2010 and has revealed that ‘the abolition of quangos’ is far more complex than many commentators and politicians seem to understand.

Often framed in dramatic language surrounding ‘quangocide’ – ‘axes will fall’, ‘bonfires will burn’ – the rhetoric of abolition in opposition is rarely translated into far-reaching reforms in office. The distinctive element of the current coalition government is that David Cameron stated in July 2009 that making over-simplistic promises about ‘quango culls’ was pointless – ‘the public have heard it all before’ – but what was needed was ‘a more sophisticated approach’. The report published today Public Bodies Reform by the UK Government 2010-2013 is free to download and provides a detailed account of the subsequent reform agenda (click here for the full report).

In a climate of ongoing criticism of quangos – with UKIP most recently pledging to “fearlessly axe the multitude of quangos that cost the state billions annually” and characterising quangos an “affront to democracy” which “make decisions and spend money without the means to be held to account”  – the report reveals a growth in accountability and transparency requirements. Indeed, these controls are arguably greater in 2013 than at any time in the last one hundred years. Professor Matthew Flinders notes, ‘Although issues remain about the specific scrutiny frameworks within which quangos work there is very little doubt that significant reforms have been put in place since 2010. The internal Whitehall controls framework has been tightened, new transparency requirements imposed and select committees and the media continue to shine the light of public scrutiny into the darkest recesses of Whitehall’.

The research published today suggests that if a sensible debate about the future of quangos is to be initiated and UKIP’s claims regarding the availability of significant efficiency savings are to be verified then it is necessary for UKIP to move from the general to the specific and pinpoint exactly which quangos it plans to abolish and what will happen to those public services. Starting at the beginning of the Public Bodies 2012 Yearbook, The Big Lottery Fund, the Boundary Commission, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the Research Councils, the Atomic Energy Authority….exactly which quangos will UKIP be abolishing to achieve its vaunted £60 billion savings and why?

Notes to Editors:

UKIPs latest quango announcement can be found here: http://www.ukip.org/newsroom/news/695-tim-aker-head-of-policy-unit-quangos-make-perfect-fuel-for-debt-bonfire

Previous examples of UKIPs anti-quango rhetoric are available here: http://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/politics/godfrey-bloom-mep-how-ukip-could-cut-income-tax-to-a-flat-rate-25/1072187.article

http://www.ukip.org/newsroom/news/692-the-spending-review-osborne-show-us-the-cuts-but-not-the-growth

For more detail on the coalition governments reforms see Public Bodies 2012.

For criticism of the Coalition government’s public bodies reform agenda and its proposed savings see the NAO report Reorganising Central Government Bodies and the Public Administration Select Committees report Smaller Government: Shrinking the Quango State.

About the Research Team:

Professor Matthew Flinders and Dr Katharine Dommett (University of Sheffield) and Professor Chris Skelcher and Dr Katie Tonkiss (University of Birmingham) are conducting a three year ESCR research project entitled ‘Shrinking the State’ which examines the impact of the Coalition Government’s programme of public body reform.

For more information see: http://www.shrinkingthestate.org.uk/

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