Last year we published The Machinery of Government (And How To Reform It), a special report by William Norton.  William used his experience as a business consultant and frontbench policy adviser to present the first holistic analysis of the various arms of the UK Government, and outlined a plan to rescue the public services.

Today Conservative Home releases the sequel to that report: “What Tony Did Next”.  Or rather, what Tony didn’t do next, because the dead hand of bureaucracy continues to strangle our public services.

There are now over two million people employed by government departments, quangos and other bodies.  This does not include any nurses, doctors, teachers, beat policemen or serving members of the armed forces.

This represents an increase in one year of 78,000 employees, a one-year increase in staffing greater than the Government’s entire promised reduction in civil service numbers under the Gershon Review.

The biggest Whitehall employer remains Health (1,013,356 staff), followed by Trade & Industry (253,369 staff) and Work & Pensions (131,404 staff).  The Treasury has leapt into fourth place (112,489 staff), overtaking the MOD and the Home Office.  Is tax collection now considered more important than defending the realm or fighting crime?

The most quango-ridden government department is the Home Office (749 governance bodies) followed by Health (717) and Constitutional Affairs (272).

The British Government is still overstaffed.  There is now an average of 800 staff for each governance body, an increase from the previous year’s average of 758 staff.  Whitehall is not slimming-down and it is not becoming more efficient.  There has actually been a slight reduction in the number of quangos over the year (35 fewer) but there are still over 2,500 governance bodies in the UK/England, a massive increase since 1997, when the equivalent count (allowing for devolution) was around 1,900 quangos.

Whatever might be wrong with the public sector in Britain, it is not being caused by a shortage of administrators.

Examples of bureaucratic incompetence during the year:

  1. Whilst NHS Trusts have been suffering from financial deficits and
    overspending, the average number of non-medical employees for each NHS
    quango has increased (from 1,519 to 1,597).
  2. The abolition of the Strategic Rail Authority was announced in 2004,
    yet it is still in existence and has, in fact, increased its staffing.
  3. The Royal Mint has the responsibility for coining money, yet somehow
    manages to make a financial loss of £1.6m.  The Master of the Mint is
    Gordon Brown MP.
  4. The Assets Recovery Agency is responsible for tracking down the
    proceeds of crime, yet it is technically insolvent – and was guilty of
    spending taxpayers’ money without Parliamentary approval.
  5. There are still two quangos devoted to abolishing the pound and joining the euro.
  6. Bungled introduction of new IT systems in the Department for
    Constitutional Affairs, the Department for Work & Pensions, and the
    Department of Health.
  7. The Rural Payments Agency proved incapable of paying the “simplified” Single Farm Payment to farmers on time or correctly. 
  8. The Ministry of Defence may have lost up to £15.6m through book-keeping errors.
  9. The Department for Education & Skills had to destroy publications
    worth £1.8m, and was subject to a VAT investigation by Customs &
    Excise on its hiring of consultants.
  10. The Foreign Office wasted £0.6m of taxpayers’ money by failing to
    monitor the use of ten satellite phones which were stolen in Iraq.


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