By Claire West

News reported this week that almost 180 arms-length government bodies face the axe shows the coalition's plans are being driven by ideology not necessity, the Public and Commercial Services union says.

If the reports are accurate, thousands of jobs are at risk and many vital services that benefit society and the economy will be lost. The union says the government needs to enter into proper consultation and negotiation over the fate of these organisations, including those still under review.

Previous announcements, such as the decision to abolish regional development agencies (RDAs), have shown the government has failed to provide reliable evidence for how much abolition will cost, or how much of the work such bodies do will remain.

Many non-departmental public bodies carry out statutory functions, and many of them need to be independent because they regulate and ensure good standards.

Benefits include: arts bodies bring in money and tourism to the UK; educational bodies monitor standards and qualifications; business agencies carry out important regulatory functions; local government bodies safeguard the public against corruption; environment bodies encourage sustainable development; and the RDAs and government offices promote regional regeneration and economic development.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This is a disgraceful way to treat staff who work hard and are committed to providing quality services, very often on low pay.

"It appears the Tories are looking to grab the headlines in a week where their cuts have been criticised by members of their own coalition, and they seem happy to play politics with people's lives.

"We do not accept the need for cuts to public spending. Our alternative, of investment in public services and proper resources to tackle tax dodging, would help the economy to grow."