Mark Whitehead 10 November 2014

MPs attack the 'mess' of quangos and agencies

The current system of arms-length government has been blasted by MPs as 'confused' and lacking accountability despite recent reforms.

In a new report, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) warns that uncoordinated reforms and lack of any clear 'map of state' are hampering accountability.

PASC describes an inconsistent and cluttered system of quangos, executive agencies and non-ministerial departments, which it says is poorly understood even in central government.

The report also finds that accountability is confused, overlapping and neglected, with blurred boundaries and responsibilities. The committee is calling for a clear 'map of the state' to show how each organisation is governed and who is accountable for what.

Chair of PASC, Bernard Jenkin, said: 'The controversy around the government’s handling of flooding last winter showed that arm’s-length government is confused and opaque.

'Despite the reforms, the system of arms-length government is still a mess, and the Government knows it’s still a mess.'

In response, CIPFA said a 'major' culture change was needed to improve the quality of decision making. Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, said: 'Initiatives such as Total Place and Community Budgets, and the time taken to deliver tangible benefits, have revealed how disjointed and incoherent centrally controlled public services have become.

'All too often information, resources and ideas are not shared, common goals are not agreed, costs are duplicated and performance is undermined.'

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