£180 billion spent on quangos

An investigation by The Sunday Times has found that quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations, such as the British Potato Council and the Food Standards Agency) spend £180 billion in total, equivalent to £3,600 a year for every adult in Britain. Of this, at least £83 billion is direct government funding.

According to the Sunday Times, quangos can be very useful for the government and for those who sit on them: "It means that Whitehall can decant civil servants into such outside bodies and claim that it is cutting red tape. It can also use quangos for concealment: many do not have to provide answers under the Freedom of Information Act. For those who sit on the governing bodies they provide a lucrative source of income. Some quango heads earn more than £100,000 a year for just a few days’ work each month."

The Cabinet Office said there were 910 quangos last year, employing more than 90,000 people and costing the taxpayer £32 billion a year. But William Norton, a tax lawyer, who has spent the past three months scouring the accounts of every government department, claims that the number of quangos is in fact 2,566, an increase of 41% since Labour came to power.

Norton, who worked on the Conservative party’s James review into government spending that identified £35 billion of Whitehall waste before last year’s election, argues that any unelected organisation funded by a department to carry out the work of government should be regarded as a quango.

David Burrowes, a Conservative member of the Commons public administration select committee, said: “The concern is that these quangos are linked to cronyism and other areas of unaccountability.”

Pay £180bn: you've been quangoed (Sunday Times, 3 September 2006)