\”Bang go all the quangos\” – Express

By Kerry Gill\r\n

THE long-awaited “bonfire of the quangos” should be turned into a ­conflagration that destroys the vast ­majority of the ­agencies, a think tank urged yesterday.

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The recommendation will send a shiver down the spines of those paid large sums to sit on quangos.
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\r\nBoth Alex Salmond and David Cameron, the Conservative leader, have pledged to rein in the power of what has been called the “quango state”. Reform Scotland said far too much unaccountable power was left with quangos, of which there are now 115 in Scotland, costing the taxpayer more than £13billion.
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\r\nMost of them should be abolished in a radical move that would improve the democratic process, according to a paper issued by the think tank. Bodies such as Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland operated in a “no-man’s land”, being neither fully accountable to the public through ministers nor fully independent of government.
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\r\nThe 115 quangos cost the Scottish Government more than £13billion in 2008-9, although almost £10million went to NHS bodies. Reform Scotland director Geoff Mawdsley said most, apart from tribunals such as the Children’s Panel system, should “cease to exist altogether”.
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\r\nOfficials have called for the work of quangos to be carried out by government departments or for them to be made fully independent bodies.
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\r\nMr Mawdsley said: “In respect of each body, a decision will need to be taken as to whether its functions could be transferred to existing government departments, or the quango turned into a genuinely autonomous body. There should also be a presumption in favour of functions being performed by local authorities, where appropriate, to ensure accountability.”
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\r\nMr Mawdsley said under the current system “one of the key disadvantages of handing over so much power and influence to non-elected quangos is that when something goes wrong ministers are given a way out”.

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\r\nThe Scottish Government claims it is on track to cut the number of such bodies by 25 per cent. But the report warned that unless the “inherent problem with the nature of quangos” was addressed, “it is likely that bonfires will be followed by a return to form – the creation of new quangos”.

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\r\nThe think tank’s Democratic Power report said there was a “lack of openness and accountability” in the present system and added: “Reform Scotland’s remedy for this problem would mean that so-called quangos would virtually cease to exist.”
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\r\nBut a Scottish Government spokesman said the administration was making “radical and ambitious reforms for a more efficient public sector landscape”.

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\r\nHe said the number of public bodies had been cut from 199 to 161, and would fall to 120 by 2011, adding: “We are convinced these reforms represent the right course of action for Scotland.”