The UK Government has announced that 192 UK quangos will be abolished, with a further 118 taxpayer-funded agencies to be merged. "Substantial reform" is proposed for 171, and 40 bodies are yet to learn their fate following the review, which does not cover bodies covered by the Scottish devolution settlement. The total number of quangos will drop from 901 to 648. The complete list of the quangos and the fate awaiting them can be found in the paper Public Bodies Reform - Proposals for Change (click here).
In many cases, the responsibilities of the quango being scrapped will be subsumed back into the Government Departments from which they emerged, and it is likely that a number of those working for the soon-to-be-ex-quangos will end up working for the Government after the reform process is complete.
Estimates of jobs to be lost as a result of the changes run as high as 10,000 of the 300,000-plus employees of quangos, with rumours (as yet unsubstantiated) that the highest paid will be at the front of the redundancy queue.
Not surprisingly this announcement has met with criticism from the Opposition and some unions, the former accusing the Government of being 'the most expensive butcher in history', and one of the latter decrying the move as a 'massacre of the innocent'. The Government claims the move is a victory for accountability, but opponents claim that the likely savings will not be as great as the Government claims, and indeed that the cost of the exercise may all but obliterate any savings.
In the drive for efficiencies, the number of public sector bodies was always at risk of reduction, and it is perhaps no surprise that the quangos are in the firing line. The overall implications for Scotland of these proposals cannot be determined yet, either in terms of job losses or who will become responsible for the work of the quangos which are being abolished and reformed. However, they may foretell similar announcements by the Scottish Government over coming weeks in relation to Scottish public bodies, as well as an increase in shared services and collaboration between public bodies.