The government could reap huge savings by streamlining the “Byzantine system” of education quangos according to a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Its new report – Quangos in the Education and Skills System – claims more than £500m of savings are potentially available from questioning the size and scope of six organisations and cutting them back over a two-year period.
Ministers have already handed down a death sentence to the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), but the CIPD also looked at potential savings from the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, the Learning and Skills Network, Lifelong Learning UK, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and the nine Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).
It applied four tests (see table) around each quango’s role, questioning the the value it offers and the extent to which its function could be undertaken by the private or third sectors.
Tom Richmond, the CIPD’s policy adviser on skills, said the analysis highlighted a number of “worrying trends”, including several offering free consultancy and event management sponsored by taxpayers, while some quangos had bought up private sector competitors and others lobbied the government using government funds.
“With so much money at stake and with imminent spending reductions across many government departments, the role, purpose, and operations of each individual quango must therefore be revisited as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“Despite what some commentators suggest, many quangos perform vital functions and represent good value-for-money.
“However, with such a strong political emphasis on protecting frontline services, quangos are inevitably going to face considerable scrutiny, and we believe that the four tests outlined today represent a fair and appropriate method for judging education and skills quangos and indeed quangos in all government departments.”
The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education disputed CIPD’s description of it as a quango, adding that it was “astonished” that the institute labeled it as one.
In a statement, it said: “Unlike quangos which have their boards chosen or ratified by a Secretary of State, the board of NIACE is accountable to more than six hundred corporate and individual members, in England and Wales, subscribing to its aims.
“Rather than calling for NIACE to be cut, the CIPD might wish to reflect on the extent to which support for voluntary and community sector organisations, such as NIACE, might represent a highly effective and efficient use of public funds, worthy of expansion in the future.”