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Institute responds to 'quango' cull story

Sir Ian Magee, co-author of the Institute for Government's report on arm's length bodies, Read Before Burning, warned on BBC News and Radio 4's World at One that culling quangos should not be "just a numbers game".

Sir Ian said: "Our report published in July said the real name of the game is public interest and not numbers. There are 800 non-departmental public bodies NDPBs. Just 15 of these spend 80% of the money...you could cut several hundred but not make big savings."

Giving an example of one of the 15 biggest spending quangos on the list for abolition, the Legal Services Commission, Sir Ian said: "it independently provides legal aid and spends over £2bn annually. People will still need their cases funded, so it unlikely to be abolished altogether. It might become an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, but you need to keep ministers away from some decisions."

Sir Ian agreed the arm's length bodies landscape was "complex". He said: "In our research, we found 11 types of NDPBs. It is no surprise people are confused.”

Ian has released a statement, which can be read here.

The need for clear categorisation 

On BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Peter Riddell said that some of the arm's length bodies supposedly marked for closure "are not going to be abolished in the terms of the functions going....some small advisory bodies which don't have much budget may well be abolished. The key question about all these things is to say what do they actually do?"

"In some cases, yes there will be savings. In other cases you are just moving it back into central government... Some of them are unnecessary, but on the whole the unnecessary ones don’t spend much money. In a lot of other cases they are doing things which we in the public want done...they can be done differently...and of course everybody can be run more efficiently and there can be savings there."

Peter said: "The Institute for Government has produced a report in the summer arguing for a clear categorisation of different types of quango.

"There has long been a case for sorting out the different types of bodies and seeing which categories they should go in. As we argued in the Institute for Government report, some functions are best done in central government, and some are best done at arms length."

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