More axed quangos should have become charities, cross-party committee says

According to a report by MPs, the government missed an opportunity to 'strengthen civil society and its institutions'

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

The government's quango cull was a missed opportunity to promote its big society agenda by handing more responsibility to the voluntary sector, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

A report published today by the public administration select committee, which has reviewed the government's decision to axe 192 quangos and merge 118, says more of them should have been turned into charities.

It says that of the 901 public bodies under review, only nine will be transferred out of the public sector.

"Reforming public bodies has a much greater potential for strengthening civil society and its institutions than has so far been realised," the report says. "While the government has identified a few bodies that can be reformed as charities and mutuals, we believe more could be considered.

"This would not only provide greater space in which charities and mutuals could operate, but also allow for greater savings to be made in expenditure by public bodies," it says.

The report says members of the committee asked Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, why the government had struggled to convert many public bodies into charities or mutual bodies. He said: "It's a considerably large proportion of those [bodies] to which changes are being made."

The report also says the National Policing Improvement Agency is planning to become a mutual or cooperative organisation. Its chief executive, Nick Gargan, told the select committee that the NPIA was "actively proposing what form of cooperative, community interest vehicle or some mutually owned delivery vehicle for the service might be capable of being constructed".

Under the government's plans, British Waterways and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts will become charities when they cease being quangos in March.

The Community Development Foundation, the Alcohol Education and Research Council and the Design Council, which are both charities and public bodies, will continue as charities when they cease to be public bodies.

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