By Matthew Barrett
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The Daily Telegraph reports today on Paymaster General, Francis Maude's bonfire of the quangos, which followed the Government's review of all public bodies in October 2010. So far, progress has been as fast as expected. The Telegraph says:
- Of the 199 quangos that were set to be axed, just 53 had been abolished.
- Only one of 120 bodies which was due to be merged – postal watchdog Postcomm – has been merged.
- Only a single quango out of another 176 bodies which were set for reform has actually been reformed.
However, the Telegraph's story also contains good news: the bonfire of the quangos has been given some much needed petrol, in the form of the Public Bodies Act, which was granted Royal Assent on Wednesday. This Act (which can be read in full here) was made necessary because quangos that were established by Acts of Parliament needed new legislation in order to reform, merge or scrap them – a process which has now been made much easier.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office is quoted as saying that the "vast majority" of the Government's shake-up of quangos would be finished by 2013. The Cabinet Office announced some changes to quangos that could take place immediately following the passing of the Act:
- Transferring British Waterways functions to a new charitable body.
- Abolishing Regional Development Agencies.
- Abolishing the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and transferring functions back to the Department for Work and Pensions.
- Abolishing the Aircraft Industries Arbitration Tribunal and transferring responsibility to HM Court and Tribunals Service. The tribunal was created in the 1980s and has not met for at least the past 25 years.
- Legally abolishing Food from Britain as the body has been defunct since 2009 but was never formally abolished.
In addition to the bodies already announced as being under consideration for scrapping, or reform, Mr Maude has announced that a further 31 public bodies will be reviewed in 2011/12. Mr Maude also announced his intention for all quangos to be reviewed every three years. The Cabinet Office places the figure of the savings caused by the bonfire of the quangos at £2.6 billion in administrative costs alone by 2014/15.
Mr Maude commented on the new Act:
"We will deliver the largest overhaul of quangos in a generation. We said we would increase transparency and accountability, cut out waste and duplication, and we have. This does not end here, we are today announcing the first tranche of new regular reviews for the remaining public bodies so the quango state will never again be allowed to spiral out of control."