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\”Most Government quangos \’should be scrapped\” – STV

Most of Scotland\’s 115 quangos should be abolished in a bid to improve democracy, a think-tank said.
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\r\nReform Scotland said that too much political power was currently in the hands of the unelected groups.
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\r\nIt argued quangos 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\nReform Scotland said there were 115 quangos, costing the Scottish Government more than £13billion in 2008-09 – although almost £10million went to NHS bodies.
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\r\nDirector Geoff Mawdsley recommended most quangos, apart from tribunals such as the Children`s Panel system, should "cease to exist altogether".
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\r\nThe think-tank made the demand amid continuing concern about the level of salaries and bonuses paid to some quango bosses.
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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 back to existing government departments reporting directly to a minister, or the quango turned into a genuinely autonomous body."
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\r\nHe added: "There should also be a presumption in favour of functions being performed by local authorities, where appropriate, to ensure accountability to local communities."
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\r\nMr Mawdsley said that 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\nBut he argued the changes Reform Scotland is calling for would "not only introduce greater clarity into the political process in Scotland but would also enhance the accountability of politicians to the electorate for their actions, by forcing government to be open about what they were trying to achieve and how they proposed to achieve it".
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\r\nThe Scottish Government has previously said it is on track to cut the number of such bodies by 25% while previous administrations have also promised "bonfires of the quangos".
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\r\nBut the report warned that unless the "inherent problem with the nature of quangos" was addressed, "it is likely that bonfires will simply be followed by a return to form – the creation of new quangos, an increase in quango employees and their budgets".
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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\nIt stated: "While Reform Scotland is not necessarily disagreeing with the functions carried out by Scotland\’s quangos, we believe that the way in which they are carried out is neither accountable nor transparent."
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\r\nA Scottish Government spokesman said it was making "radical and ambitious reforms – bringing together public bodies with similar skills, expertise and processes to create a simpler, sharper and more efficient public sector landscape".
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\r\nHe added that the number of public bodies had been reduced from 199 to 161, with that due to fall to about 120 by 2011.
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\r\n"Projects already delivered through this agenda are estimated to save taxpayers £127 million between 2008 and 2013, and will deliver annual recurring savings of £36million each year thereafter, rising to over £40million annually through proposals in the Public Services Reform Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.
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\r\n"We are convinced these reforms represent the right course of action for Scotland."
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