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QUANGO FUNDING TOPS£20BN

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Public spending on quangos has increased to a record£20bn amid fears of the burgeoning cost of unaccountable gover...
Public spending on quangos has increased to a record£20bn amid fears of the burgeoning cost of unaccountable government, reported The Sunday Times (p 13).

Last year the cost of quangos to taxpayers grew by 8.5% to more than£20bn, despite Tony Blair's promise to 'sweep away the quango state' shortly after he became prime minister in 1997. The commons public administration select committee is currently investigating quangos and is expected to recommend later this year that would-be quango chiefs are grilled by committees of MPs before they are approved.

Committee chairman Tony Wright, Labour MP for Cannock Chase, commented: 'People talk about government as if it was elected and I tell you most of it is appointed. Parliament needs a much better grip on this system than it has now - it has no grip at all'.

The biggest quangos include the Teacher Training Agency, Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Strategic Rail Authority. Quango directors appointed by government are paid generously.

According to the most recent figures published by the cabinet office, John Heaton, chief executive of the Tote, was paid£155,000; Anthony Dunnett, head of the Southeast England Development Agency, received£141,915; and Andrew Foster, of the Audit Commission, was paid£177,086. However, these pay packages were dwarfed by the£465,034 paid to Norman Askew, head of British Nuclear Fuels. In contrast, the prime minister was paid£171,554.

There are a total of 1,025 quangos - official bodies that are not part of government departments and are therefore not accountable to parliament. Some of the more obscure include the Advisory Committee on Work-Life Balance, the Northern Irish Pig Production Development Committee and the Fisheries (Electricity) Committee. There are also thousands of local quangos.

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