a. Significant announcements include:
As part of the Coalition's commitment to reduce the number and cost of quangos, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has confirmed that a review of the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) will be carried out. The LBRO is a relatively recently created body, having been established under legislation passed only in 2008. The review is to examine how successful it has been in achieving its objectives of creating the conditions for regulatory reform at local level and delivering its 'Primary Authority Scheme'. It is expected that the review team will present its recommendations in September 2010.
The Government confirmed that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will be retained, albeit with some restrictions to its remit. The FSA will continue with a focus on food safety policy and enforcement.
In a further drive to make government as transparent as possible and following the publication of the salaries of the highest earning civil servants, the Cabinet Office has published the salaries of quango personnel earning more than £150,000. It is the first time this information has been published in one place and some of it has never been made public before.
b. Potential mergers of note include:
A Home Office consultation (deadline for responses 20 September 2010) has proposed the establishment of a new National Crime Agency (NCA) to 'lead the fight against organised crime, protect our borders and provide services best delivered at national level'. This proposal is that what will clearly be a powerful new body will harness and exploit the intelligence, analytical and enforcement capabilities of the existing Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and better connect these capabilities to those of a nationally applicable nature within the police service, HM Revenue and Customs, the UK Border Agency and a range of other criminal justice agencies.
The National Policing Improvement Agency is intended to be phased out as part of the proposed reforms. The Government's ambition is to establish the NCA by 2013.
c. The Government has also created the following new quangos:
Following the Competition Commission's investigation on the supply of groceries in the UK and the refusal of major retailers to offer suitable undertakings to establish an Ombudsman scheme, the Coalition Government has taken forward the work of the previous government and agreed to the establishment of an independent body to monitor and enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP). Primary legislation will be introduced to set up the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA). The GCA will be based within the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) but its activities will be independent from the OFT's normal competition and consumer activities.
The Coalition's willingness to look at the continuing role of the LBRO shows that, in its desire to reduce the number of arm's length bodies, nothing is sacred. Prior to the general election it was the policy of the largest party within the Coalition to strengthen and expand the role of the LBRO. While this may still occur as a result of the work now being carried out, it is notable that the review is not being framed in those terms.
The GCA is a rare (though not the only) example of a new arm's length body being established by the Coalition; a slight counterbalance to the number of bodies being abolished. However, its circumstances are unique. Prior to the election the Competition Commission decided that the GSCOP was a necessary and proportionate remedy to address the adverse effect on competition it had identified in investigating the supply of groceries in the UK and also that it was necessary to ensure 'compliance' with the GSCOP through effective monitoring and enforcement. It determined that it did not have sufficient powers to set up such a monitoring body under current legislation. The GCA is that body, and it would have been extremely difficult for the Coalition to ignore the Competition Commission's report and reject the need for it.