Maude: Ministers can no longer hide behind quangos

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, outlines the changes on the way in the public bodies bill:

"The landscape for public bodies needs radical reform to increase transparency and accountability, to cut out duplication of activity, and to discontinue activities which are simply no longer needed.

"This public expect ministers to take responsibility for what the government does, and not leave this to people or bodies that are unelected.

"In the past, too many public bodies have been established without proper thought, and allowed to remain when their mission has long been accomplished. This has meant that elected politicians have been able to avoid making difficult and tough decisions.

"This is a direct challenge to accountability and is contrary to openness and transparency in public services that this government seeks to achieve.

"So the government's presumption is that state activity, if needed at all, should be undertaken by bodies that are democratically accountable at either national or local level.

"We know that for a long time there has been a huge hunger for change. People have been fed up with the old way of doing business, where the ministers they voted for could often avoid taking responsibility for difficult and tough decisions by creating or hiding behind one of these quangos.

"Today's announcement means that many important and essential functions will be brought back into departments meaning the line of accountability will run right up to the very top where it always should have been.

"In many cases, today's proposals will ensure we preserve the quality of vital services, while allowing them to become more efficient and, where appropriate, giving more power to the front line professionals who know those services best.

"There are of course organisations that will remain, although it is unlikely that any will be completely unchanged. This is because we recognise that some of these bodies do hugely important and essential work that has to be done at arm's length from government, especially when political impartiality, independence or technical expertise is required.

"But those that remain will not be allowed to go back to the old way of working. As part of the reforms, we will also be introducing new transparency requirements, a new governance framework and a new review process to ensure that there is a robust and regular challenge of the continuing need for all the public bodies that remain.

"While today's changes will help us move quickly to a new era of accountability in government, we recognise that there will be significant changes for many staff, who have done an enormous amount of excellent work for their organisations.

"We also want to recognise the public service given by members of boards and committees. We will continue to do all we can to work with their chief executives, chairs and management teams to ensure any change is conducted as fairly and as smoothly as possible."


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