Lib Dems vs the quangos

By Ian Dunt

The Liberal Democrats will launch a brutal attack on quangos if they have any part in government, the party’s health spokesman has said.

Speaking at the party conference this morning, Norman Lamb promised deep cuts to health quangos.

No quango chief would be able to earn more than the prime minister under the proposals.

“Labour’s leviathan has grown so large that health quangos alone now cost around £1.2 billion a year, employing 25,000 people and with 24 quango chiefs being paid more the prime minister,” he said.

“We will wield an axe to the quango state.”

The amount spent on quangos would be cut by a fifth – abolishing many of them completely.

The Department of Health would see its size reduced by a spectacular 50 per cent, and Strategic Health Authorities would be abolished.

But there was a suggestion of extra spending to go with the cuts. Mr Lamb proposed 3,000 extra midwives to tackle a shortfall and a reorganisation of internal authority structures within the NHS so that ward sisters are given greater powers.

“Labour promised at the last election that every woman would be supported by the same midwife throughout her pregnancy and be entitled to choose where she gave birth,” he said.

“But – if you’ll excuse the pun – they simply haven’t delivered.

“Instead of spending £150m on the health and pregnancy grant giveaway – we’ll recruit 3000 more mid-wives and health visitors to tackle the current shortfall,” he added.

“So that every mother has the advice and support she needs and is given a choice about where she gives birth.”

The speech comes on the first formal day of the Lib Dem conference, after party leader Nick Clegg opened the event yesterday with a blistering attack on David Cameron, who he described as a “con-man”.