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Quangoing, gone

Quangos are an unloved species. The very name, a peculiar 1970s academic derivation derivation, in grammar: see inflection. , conjures up administrative lumbering beasts crashing through the bureaucratic bu·reau·crat  
n.
1. An official of a bureaucracy.

2. An official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.



bu
 thickets. It would be wrong to say they are endangered, but the hunters are in pursuit.

This week, civil servants in the Department of Health (DoH) are identifying which authorities and commissions will be culled, with a public announcement due at the time of Gordon Brown's big spending review in a month.

The health secretary, John Reid John Reid may refer to:
  • John Reid (soldier) (born 1721), a British general and musical composer, who left a bequest to fund a chair in Music at the University of Edinburgh
  • John Dowsley Reid (1859-1929), a Canadian parliamentarian and Cabinet minister
  • John C. W.
, wants 21 of his arm's-length bodies to die and it is likely, as the Gershon efficiency recommendations are incorporated into Whitehall departments' spending plans for 2005-08, that there will be similar cuts in education, local government and work and pensions.

It is worth explaining what quangos are. The terms stands for quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations. Unlike non-government organisations (NGOs) such as Oxfam, which is autonomous, quangos are state-funded and therefore quasi-autonomous. In Whitehall, quangos are often called non-departmental public bodies In the United Kingdom, a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury and Scottish Executive to certain types of public bodies.  (NDPBs).

Those NDPBs are in Reid's sights. He is after headlines saying he is saving £500m by cutting 5,000 jobs thanks to the disappearance of a score of quangos. The cash saved would employ an extra 20,000 nurses, says the DoH.

But these bodies do things that nurses cannot do. The DoH's list of 42 quangos up for culling culling

removal of inferior animals from a group of breeding stock. The removal is premature, i.e. before completion of its life span, disposal of an animal from a herd or other group.
 includes the body running NHS NHS
abbr.
National Health Service


NHS (in Britain) National Health Service
 pensions, the National Blood Authority and NHS Estates.

Take the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement, which has been up and running for barely a year. It has been trying to promote local health forums as successors to community health councils but now looks like a victim and will probably be merged into the Healthcare Commission The Healthcare Commission is an independent body, set up to promote and drive improvement in the quality of healthcare and public health in England and Wales. It aims to achieve this by becoming an authoritative and trusted source of information and by ensuring that this .

According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 its chair, Sharon Grant, "to ensure a voice for patients and the public, you really do have to be independent, particularly when trust in government is so questionable. It would have been a very different story if it had been the DoH trying to recruit 5,000 people to be members of forums rather than us".

The General Social Care Council, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Healthcare Commission are playing musical chairs; the bets are that Sir Ian Kennedy 1. ^ Cm 5207 (2002) [1]

Professor Sir Ian McColl Kennedy (born 14 September 1941) is a British academic lawyer who has specialised in the law and ethics of health.

Kennedy is Emeritus Professor of Health Law, Ethics and Policy at University College, London.
, chair of the Healthcare Commission, will not be left standing when the music stops.

The execution can hardly be called scientific. No criteria for assessing performance have been published; the DoH seems not to have cross-referred to experience in other departments. The victims have not been allowed to make a case for their survival or shown the execution warrants.

Quangos have been hunted for years. When the Conservatives came to power in 1979, shotguns were deployed - quangos were a product of a bloated executive, the fault of a Labour government, they said.

Some of this pressure was useful. The Cabinet Office was forced into producing an annual census of public bodies - though its 800-strong list is still far from complete. How much their chairs were paid became public knowledge. Under New Labour quangos proliferated, and their ranks included a taskforce aimed at reducing their number.

The case for quangos is that a lot of government demands "independence", meaning the capacity to bring to bear disinterested judgment. The Human Fertilization This article may be too technical for most readers to understand, and needs attention from an expert on its subject. Please [ expand] it to make it accessible to non-experts, without removing the technical details.  and Embryology embryology

Study of the formation and development of an embryo and fetus. Before widespread use of the microscope and the advent of cellular biology in the 19th century, embryology was based on descriptive and comparative studies.
 Authority (possibly to be wound up or merged with the new Human Tissue Authority and possibly also UK Transplant) makes fine distinctions when it licenses clinics or forbids procedures. Its experts plus its board members - a selection of the proverbial great and good - bring a large body of experience to bear.

Appearing before the Commons' health committee a few months ago, Reid said that he had no personal involvement in the disciplining of underperforming doctors carried out by the National Clinical Assessment Authority, another candidate for the chop. Now, it seems, the task of assessing doctors' performance is to be shifted away from Whitehall "to patients and frontline staff in the regions".

David Hinchliffe, the Labour MP who chairs the Commons' health committee, says the DoH has allowed quangos to proliferate pro·lif·er·ate
v.
To grow or multiply by rapidly producing new tissue, parts, cells, or offspring.
 and set up bodies without much thought. But he worries that this culling exercise is also mindless.

Writing in the first edition of the Guardian's new monthly magazine for public sector executives, Public, Whitehall expert Graham Mather argues that "specialised agencies are able to recruit more carefully and to amend and develop their systems as they go along".

Mather complains about the "modesty" that is shown by quangos when they are putting over their achievements. "It would be a pity if a kneejerk distrust of appointed bodies damaged an almost entirely benign transfer of power towards more independent, more expert and more effective decision taking."

· David Walker David Walker may refer to:
  • David Walker (abolitionist) (1785-1830), American black abolitionist
  • David M. Walker (astronaut) (1944-2001), United States astronaut for NASA
  • David M. Walker (U.S.
 is the editor of Public magazine, published by the Guardian, which covers management, policy, technology and finance.
Copyright 2004 guardian.co.uk
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:guardian.co.uk
Publication:guardian.co.uk
Date:Jun 9, 2004
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