Friday, May 18, 2007

Bonfire of The Quangos

When Henry McLeish (remember him?) announced his Bonfire of the Quangos in November 2000 there were 183 such bodies just waiting to be torched. By June 2001 it was announced that this number had been reduced by 52; this was largely from the rationalisation of the Health Board structure, and the various water authorities being grouped together as one. 183 less 52 is 131. In June 2001 it was boldly announced that a further sixty-one bodies were under extra Scrutiny, "with a presumption in favour of abolition". Lets be generous and say that the number of crushed Quangos would amount to a third, say 20 organisations. That would give us 111 or thereabouts in Scotland. Back in 2005 the number stood at 144.

On the Glasgow University web site there are 49 Scottish Agencies and Quangos listed. These include Scotland Europa - Scottish-Office launched initiative to promote Scottish interests to the institutions of the EU, Scottish Policy Net : hosted by Scottish Council Foundation and Learning and Teaching Scotland. It also includes such organizations as BBC Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Prison Services. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Elsewhere on the web you can find other lists of organizations, which fall into the club Quango bracket. Rural Forum Scotland, Scottish Anti-Poverty Network, Scottish Contaminated Land Forum, Scottish Environmental Forum, Scottish Environment Link, Scottish National Rural Partnership, Scottish National Transport Forum and The Scottish Biodiversity Group.

Quite how many Quangos there are in left Scotland is difficult to find out and so how many people work for them is impossible to know - suffice it to say that there's a lot.

Back in 2006 the SNP were making noises. "The party is concerned that the quango state created by the Tories to deliver their political will in Scotland in the absence of political support has been perpetuated after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament." - JOHN SWINNEY, SNP. They have publicly said they want a reduction in the number and it's believed that their targets include SportScotland and Scottish Enterprise.

Nothing new there. In 2002 the SNP MSP Alex Neil was set to introduce a members' bill at Holyrood, which would make all Quangos directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament. Five years ago our Finance Minister said in relation to Quangos. "There is a widespread desire in Scotland for a more open and accountable style of governance and I believe fundamental questions should be asked now to ensure arrangements for making appointments are consistent with the new context in which we were elected." So when Jack McConnell became First Minister did he do anything about it?

Bureaucracy is defined as 'an inclination to follow rigid or complex procedures (that) impedes effective action'. That's precisely the problem here in Scotland. Increasing numbers of Quangos, growing staff numbers employed by these organizations and total confusion about who the hell is doing what points to a situation that's out of control. It's nearly seven years since Henry McLeish announced his bonfire of the Quangos, and so far we have failed to even collect any kindling.
Is it any wonder that people have become increasingly sceptical about the role of the Scottish Parliament? Is it surprising that the average man and woman feels squashed and unable to breathe from the weight of bureaucracy? Club Scotland has become a gravy train for people who often work (very) part time, for salaries vastly in excess of average earnings. Increasingly politicians are out of touch with the realities of everyday life. The previous executive's had this to say about Quangos. "New public bodies will continue to be created where this is clearly the best mechanism for getting work done often being the best way to get the job done."

Will the SNP really deliver on their promise?

I’ve decided to begin Quango Watch here at Havering On. I’ll try and bring regular news of the fight to see who will be the torch bearer at the bonfire, how big the fire will be and when we can be expect to be invited to the party. If you have any information on the daftness of Quangos I’d love to hear about it.

Quango watch starts here.

1 comment:

james higham said...

...Is it any wonder that people have become increasingly sceptical about the role of the Scottish Parliament?...

Yes, more than one man is musing on this matter.