The extended final set battle to determine who can manage, destroy or banish the need for our vast body of quangos drags on through the TV studios, the newspapers and the blogosphere.
The inestimable Guido Fawkes is one, and he delights in listing ones the Tories will ‘create’ – as opposed to wind up.. Unfortunately he uncritically lists a number kindly provided by the Labour Party.
Well, you need to take claims from a Labour press office with a pinch of salt Mr Fawkes (they are after all the Great Satan). Looking a little more deeply into their list shows that not quite all is as it might seem. Here goes ….
Office of Tax Simplification – comes from a suggestion by Lord Howe, not official policy. God knows we need it.
Office of Budget Responsibility — a damned good idea. But then it does come from George Osborne.
Free national financial advice service – this comes from the ‘Thoresen Review of Generic Financial Advice’, — it was, wait for it Commissioned by the government.
‘Sports Commission’ (Australian model) — this comes from a Conservative discussion document which suggests — “Conservatives would create a cross-departmental Cabinet Office Committee on sport, based on the Australian Sports Commission, to streamline the delivery of sport and act as a champion for sport in government”. ummm, not a quango.
Office for Civil Society – the BBC report, “David Cameron plans to create the office by replacing the current Office of the Third Sector, although he argues the new office will be put “at the heart of government” to fight for the interests of charities … ” Errr … replacing a quango.
Social Investment Bank – Hmmm… Darling championed one in his last budget. Reports say its part of Tory policy to replace the Office of the Third Sector (again). (Oh, thats charities to the rest of us). An attempt to help charities seems good idea to me.
Military Quangos – In the current military climate I think it would be harsh to criticise the motives behind the 3 military organisations. Unless you are the Labour Party that is.
International Aid Watchdog — The Guardian reports, “The government is to create an independent watchdog to monitor the effectiveness of the fast-rising overseas aid budget, the development secretary Hilary Benn said yesterday. .After pressure from the Conservatives, he said he was establishing a seven-strong body of experts to help him ensure the £7bn a year spent by the Department for International Development was being properly spent.” Ho hum – a definite forked tongue from the Labour Press office there…
Innovative Projects Agency — The Times Higher Education Supplement point out it is an idea from a Tory Study Review which, “would take on the work of the existing Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Trade and Industry’s knowledge-transfer programmes, the innovation budget, the UK high-technology fund, a slice of the Government’s £1.6 billion research and development budgets and parts of the science and technology budgets of the regional development agencies.” ‘take the work of’ … Ho hum again.
National Foundation for STEM — assume this is related to the Tories, ‘Science, Engineering, Technology & Mathematics (STEM) Task Force’ . The report says, “Overall we conclude that there needs to be a single voice in the public sector championing STEM – one which brings some co-ordination, discipline and focus to the many overlapping yet diffuse initiatives in this field. Hence we have proposed a new Agency to be a champion for STEM in the public sector and across society as a whole.”
‘a single voice’ implies getting rid of other multiple voices. Indeed the report says “We anticipate that the agency would incorporate the work and most of the staff of the existing Council of Science & Technology, the Science and Society section of the Office of Science & Innovation in the DTI and the public engagement part of Research Councils UK.” …. Well what the hell, we are in the 21st century!
“HealthWatch” – yep its a Tory idea, and yes it looks like a quango to me. “And we will ensure that the voice of patients is listened to through the creation of a national consumer voice: HealthWatch” BUT “In this plan, scrapping targets and bureaucracy will free up resources to frontline care.”
Export Services organisation – “We will streamline the procurement process to ensure the speedy delivery of equipment to the front line. And we will immediately reinstate the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) to ensure a healthy UK defence sector.” ‘Reinstate’. I cannot fault this. What do the French do I wonder?
All Age Careers Service – Well just how do you want to end the curse of NEETs? The Tories point out – “The Skills Commission says: “there has been a decline in the quality of careers guidance since Connexions replaced the Careers Service [in 2001].” ” …. “That is why we will introduce a £180 million independent careers advice service for all secondary schools. …. And it will be an all-age careers service, to help those who are already NEET and missed out on good advice at school.”
Sounds like it will replace this ‘Connexions’ – good idea since its spelt wrongly.
Voluntary Action Lottery Fund – Tory policy is to “Replace the Big Lottery Fund with a Voluntary Action Fund dedicated to the voluntary and community sector” — Err that’s ‘replace’ — again.
A development agency for libraries — ?? You got me there.
But … former bookseller and now good library advocate Tim Coates (his elder son, Sam, is political correspondent for the Times) did give a speech to the ‘Conservative Party Forum on Libraries’ (its good to know I support a literate party) — he said, “It is timely for the Conservative Party to articulate a Vision for public libraries” “The Conservative party has a tremendous opportunity to take the lead in this matter immediately.” ” For as long as I can remember the officers of the MLA and the London Libraries Development Agency have been on the point of trying to resolve the political and technical questions that would make such progress possible.”
So we ALREADY have a libraries development agency in London ! Does Ken Livingstone know?
In summary? Well I see nothing here that shouts hypocrisy or dispels the basic good sense of the Conservative Party’s (quite frankly cautious) policy aims.
But hey — that will not stop the blind gullible media (and Mr Fawkes) from taking a few easy shots. All at the expense of good honest debate of course.