Monday, 6 July 2009

Quando Quango

It's interesting that David Cameron has decided to pick on Quangos in his attempt to hoodwink the public that he has efficiency savings rather than cuts in mind.

These organisations were set up by the Tories in the eighties and enthusiastically seized on by Labour as means of (1) avoiding having to make unpopular political decisions (2) getting around the public's rather nasty habit of wanting to have a say in things and (3) an nice little sinecure to reward the party faithful.

Now it would seem that, rather like his Road to Damascus revelation over Section 28, after opening the stable door Cameron is scrabbling around for a lasso - although perhaps I should instead welcome Conservatives coming around to the Lib Dem idea that you should put the power back in the hands of the people. The problem I see with the Tories sudden conversion to democracy is that their track record suggests that once the public start making decisions they do not agree with, they will take it back off them.

Many of the bodies are nonsensical and undemocratic. Strategic Development Agencies exist because both Labour and Tories refuse to get to grips with the West Lothian Question. The proposed replacements are doomed to fail because "South East" has no emotional recognition. England does.

OFGEN has led the way in being industry poodle rather than a consumer champion and OFCOM has proved itself to be little more than a lobbying arm for British Sky Broadcasting.

In Reading we have the Local Strategic Partnership, an undemocratic body that keeps its minutes to itself and which thanks to Labour has seen large amounts of decision making transferred from the democratic to vested interest groups.

We also have the perpetuation of 'jobs for the boys' for failed politicians as the South East Diamonds and numerous other unelected boards testify to.

Many quangos only exist because of the target driven culture pioneered by the Tories and perpetuated by Labour.

Yes, some of the quangos have to go as they serve no useful purpose. But on the other hand would you trust the Government to audit itself, or run a railway? No, is the simple answer. Some of these bodies are absolutely required, but need to be publically accountable.

A commitment to local democracy from the Tories, rather than headline grabbing platitudes would have been far more convincing.


howard thomas said...

Look at the figures produced by the Taxpayers Alliance for 2008.
Quangos costing the country £120-odd billion anually of which they say £44 billion could be saved without anything of any value being cut.
Cameron has the right idea , but does he have either the balls or the vision to make the cuts where they could and should be made.------------------probably not!

Anonymous said...

Serious question, WAS - are School Governors and Local Health Boards counted in the list of Quangos? If so, maybe they are not all as bad as each other? Where is the line drawn - what exactly IS a Quango these days?

Was said...

Sort of my point Anon.

Some Quangos exist because of lazy government and a laissez-faire attitude to our money. Some are absolutely essential to keep politicians out of making up their own rules.

The trouble is that politicians are the ones deciding which ones they'd like to keep, mainly I susoect because at the heart of it they don't trust democracy.

Anonymous said...

For once Was I agree with you!