Over the last month or so, after spending their time looking at MPs expenses, the newspapers have moved on to looking at other public bodies, and their costs. There have been a few stories about expenses, and a few more about the way that public bodies spend money on other things.
But an emerging trend has been speculation about which quangos will disappear to save money. Which made me think of the Bear Hunt book my kids used to love:
We’re going on a quango hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.
How many skills bodies does it take to change a light bulb?
Type ‘electrician’ into the national database of qualifications and you’ll get a list of 84 accredited qualifications. These qualifications are offered by 11 different awarding bodies, in turn drawing from 292 different occupational standards under the heading of ‘electrical trades’. These standards have been developed by 13 different standard setting bodies or Sector Skills Councils. So far, so traceable. But then we turn to funding, inspection and auditing. A conservative estimate is of a further 30 organisations involved here.
In total this means potentially over 50 different bodies to design, fund, assure and develop the competent changing of a light bulb.
And today, the BBC news website is reporting that the Centre for Policy Studies (which is definitely a Conservative-leaning body, having been founded by Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher!) is calling for a ‘quango cull in education’ – suggesting that 7 of 11 education quangos aren’t needed, to save £600M*. Of course, the BBC story is then packed with individual quangos defending their roles, and also quotes the view that if the quangos disappeared, the responsibilities they hold would fall back onto schools – creating more workload for schools and teachers.
So the thesis is – we can’t get rid of them, because schools would suffer. I think it’s time for some mini-poll fun. Although all 11 aren’t named anywhere, I’ve found 8 of the quangos – so here’s your chance to see how much money you’d like to save. Which ones could you do without, and which wouldn’t create more work for you?
(Have made sure this list loads in random order, because alphabetical seemed unfair. And I’ve given you a box to name your other favourites)
ps £600M savings sounds like a lot of money, but given that we spend more than £45 billion on education, it’s only a drop in the ocean, so these kind of stories are more about politics than anything else. But then, if it really did save £600M that would be equivalent to around £25,000 per school.