A Good Day To Bury Bad News

(Telegraph) – SPENDING ON QUANGOS across the country has jumped by nearly £10billion under Gordon Brown, figures showed last night.

A report revealed that spending on quangos, controversial arms-length public bodies which control huge swathes of spending on areas like health and education, increased by a quarter over the last three years, from £37billion to £46.5billion.

The figures were released without fanfare on the Cabinet Office’s website last night.

Politicians and campaigners suggested the timing – on the same day as the publication of the report by Sir Thomas Legg on MPs’ expenses – was a “good day to bury bad news”.

A Cabinet Office report showed that spending on the quangos, or executive “non-departmental public bodies”, rose by £3.5 billion – or 7 per cent – to £46.5billion last year.

The latest figures mean that spending on the organisations has now increased by £10billion or 25 per cent over the past three years.

Of the £46.5billion, £38.4billion was funded directly by Government, with the remainder coming from a combination of fees, charges, levies and National Lottery and European Union funding.

The number of the public bodies fell from 827 to 790 between 2008 and 2009, but staff employed by the executive bodies increased from 92,500 to 110,000 people.

The Tories claimed there was no “detailed breakdowns by individual quango, meaning there are no clear figures on where this extra money has been spent”.

Francis Maude MP, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “Gordon Brown continues to burn taxpayers’ money on a quango gravy train, making a mockery of his claims to deliver a new politics.

“This whole tier of bureaucracy lacks proper accountability and transparency over how they spend our money.”

Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrats’ shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “With MPs’ expenses again in the spotlight, the Government seems to have thought it was a good day to bury £10bn of bad news.

“Gordon Brown has taken Labour’s obsession with unelected and unaccountable quangos to a new extreme. This is an obscene amount of money to spend on bodies that lack transparency and effective democratic control.”

The figures, from the Cabinet Office’s Public Bodies, excludes executive agencies, public corporations, non-ministerial departments and many of the local and regional quangos created by Labour.

According to research by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns against wasteful spending of public money, there were 1,152 quangos in the UK in 2008, costing the taxpayer £90 billion.

A spokesman for the alliance said: “The Government evidently felt this was a good day to bury the bad news about our bloated quango state.

“Despite all the rhetoric, these unaccountable bureaucrats continue to spend a huge amount of taxpayers’ money without any need to answer to the people.

” We could save billions by scrapping many of these bodies, and cutting down or amalgamating many others. It is time taxpayers’ were given control of how their own taxes are spent.”

Quangos cost the UK just £21.4billion in 1997/98, a year after Labour came to power promising a “bonfire of the quangos”.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, has already announced plans to abolish or merge 123 quangos, as part of plans to save £500million a year.

She said: “The number of non-departmental public bodies has fallen by over 10 per cent since 1997 – and we expect numbers to continue to fall.

“Those that remain will provide vital public services, such as training teachers, protecting the environment and leading research into new medicines.”

Advertisements

Public Sector Elite Earning Thousands Of Pounds Per Day

(Telegraph) – A COSY ELITE of public sector staff are earning as much as £4,800 for a day’s work, a report claims today.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance report into the earnings of quango executives comes as MPs call for public sector bodies to be “named and shamed” if they pay their staff too much.

The TPA studied the pay and contracts of more than 900 non-executive directors of public bodies, who sit on management boards part-time and oversee their strategy and performance.

The report looked at the boards of 100 quangos, and found that the typical board meets between 10 and 14 times a year.

Overall, the TPA calculated that for chairmen of public bodies, the average daily rate was £642. The typical non-executive board member got £356.

Some are paid much more. The best-paid was Sir Callum McCarthy, the former chairman of the Financial Services Authority. He was paid £487,238 for a year when he was at the City watchdog, a daily rate of £4,872.

Sir John Harman, the former chairman of the Environment Agency, was paid the equivalent of £1,240 for each day’s work. John Armitt of the Olympic Delivery Agency was paid £962.

The report also found that a significant number of directors sit on the board of more than one quango.

Ben Farrugia, the author of the TPA report, said quango board appointments are often a “carousel”, with members and chairmen frequently moving from one board to another.

He said: “Quangos spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money and control a wide range of public activities, but they are unaccountable and distant from the taxpaying public. Their non-executive directors should work to protect taxpayers’ interests on our behalf, but there are serious concerns about their suitability to do that job.

“Our study suggests that instead of serving taxpayers’ interests, many non-executive members and Chairs are all too likely to put their quango’s interests first.”

Meanwhile, the Public Administration Select Committee of MPs joined the growing chorus of criticism of public sector salaries

The committee called for the creation of a new Top Pay Commission to require public sector pay-setters to justify big pay deals and “set them in the context of pay at lower levels and the state of the public finances.”

Tony Wright, the Labour chairman of the committee, said: “We do not believe that the ever-growing gulf between average earnings and top pay is sustainable or desirable – especially in a time of recession.”

The MPs’ report also identified weaknesses in current arrangements for public sector pay-setting, warning of a perception that some public servants have been rewarded for failure.

Pay has been driven up because parts of the public sector are competing against each other for a small number of experienced executives, rather than nurturing talent within their own ranks, the MPs said.

George Osborne, the Tory shadow chancellor has said that under a Conservative government, any public sector salary higher than the Prime Minister’s £192,000 salary could only be directly approved by the Treasury.

Gordon Brown admitted this month that a “culture of excess” has developed around public sector salaries and ordered a review of senior officials’ pay.

Last week, John Denham, the Communities Secretary, put forward new rules requiring local authorities and other public bodies to reveal the names and salaries of an estimated 300 staff earning more than £150,000 a year.

ECC Chief’s Salary Criticised

(BBC) – ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL has been criticised for its decision to pay its chief executive a ‘base salary’ of £230,000 a year.

Campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance said the council had ‘no justification’ for paying such a high salary to Joanna Killian.

The council said Ms Killian, also chief executive of Brentwood Borough Council, delivered savings of nearly £100m in the past two years.

It said the salary was fair given the complexity of Ms Killian’s role.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance said Ms Killian was one of the highest paid local government bosses in Britain.

‘There’s no justification for such high salaries in local government,’ said a spokesman.

In April, the alliance said its research showed that more than 1,000 council bosses earned more than £100,000 a year and at least 16 earned more than Mr Brown, who earned a £194,000 salary.

A spokesman said: ‘Essex County Council pays a fair price given the responsibilities, complexity and challenges of this role.’

He argued that the council needed ‘quality people’ and added: ‘As chief executive of two local authorities Joanna Killian in the last two years has delivered savings worth a total of £98.5m.’

Business Lobby Urges Pension Freeze And Child Benefit Cuts

(Reuters) – BRITAIN SHOULD FREEZE state pensions for a year, scrap child benefits for middle-class families and axe one in ten civil service jobs to cut its growing budget deficit, a top business group said today.

In a joint report with low-tax lobby the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the Institute of Directors detailed quick steps the government could take to save £50 billion from its annual budget, which is forecast to be £175 billion in the red during the current tax year.

The report adds fuel to a key debate in the run-up to a national election due by June 2010 on how Britain’s politicians will balance the country’s books. Neither Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party nor the Conservatives, who are well ahead in the opinion polls, have given many details so far.

The report’s authors said they had aimed to highlight specific cuts rather than to call for vague efficiency savings, a frequent get-out clause when governments try to set budgets.

‘The question is not cuts versus reform but cuts and reform, because we need to deal with a fiscal crisis in the short term, and in the long term deliver more effective public services,’ said Matthew Sinclair, research director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The biggest single saving in the IoD/TPA report comes from abolishing universal weekly child benefits of up to £20 per child and targeting funds on the poorest families, saving an estimated £8.447 billion.

Some £6.203 billion would be saved by freezing the pay of all public-sector workers apart from military personnel serving in combat zones for a year, and more than £2 billion apiece would be saved by making public-sector workers pay more towards their pensions and building fewer new schools.

The report also proposed scrapping one in ten jobs in the civil service and a similar proportion of jobs in state-funded health and education services which did not involve direct contact with patients or students.