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Maude's quango boasts criticised.

Byline: William Green

CABINET Office Minister Francis Maude has been accused of boasting about the axing of the region's development agency. His Whitehall department said the Government was now more than halfway through the first wave of its quango reform programme with closures made so far set to save at least pounds 1.4bn for the taxpayer in this Parliament and that more was to come.

The abolition of regional development agencies, including One North East, was highlighted as one of the key measures in tackling what Mr Maude described as a "bloated quangocracy" when the coalition came to power in 2010.

But supporters of One North East say the agency was vital to boosting the region's economic performance and that its abolition was a disastrous decision.

Labour Shadow Business Minister Chi Onwurah, who represents Newcastle Central, said: "The Cabinet Office is boasting of its ability to destroy jobs and abolish public bodies.

"But they are creating tens of new quangos with their top-down reorganisation of the NHS, whilst those bodies such as One North East, which really did help growth and help create jobs, have no effective replacement and that's why we are still in a double-dip recession."

The Cabinet Office said RDAs were costing the taxpayer approximately pounds 2bn annually by 2010, but the economic disparity between the regions had continued over the last decade.

Their closure would save the taxpayer billions of pounds and ensure local economies are provided with tailored support to boost growth, it said. Mr Maude said: "In 2010 we inherited a bloated quangocracy that had spiralled out of control. Not only were these unaccountable bodies costing the taxpayer billions, but they were duplicating bureaucracy."

And he said that rather than just "talking the talk" as people had in the past, the coalition had taken swift action to close down unnecessary bodies.

"The changes we have already made will save pounds 1.4bn, but by 2015 the Government will save the taxpayer a total of more than pounds 2.6bn. That's more than pounds 150 per working household.

"We have already closed 106 bodies and merged 150 bodies into fewer than 70, but we are only halfway through the first phase of our programme." He added: "Once we have completed the planned closures and mergers, we will continue to review all remaining quangos to ensure that never again will we end up with so many of these vast bureaucratic and unaccountable bodies.

"We are more transparent about quangos and who works for them than any Government before. And our Civil Service reform programme is ensuring that remaining quangos are more efficient and effective.

"But let's be clear, when it comes to shrinking and streamlining the quango state there's plenty more to come."

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 22, 2012
Words:469
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