By Claire West

Today the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) releases a new policy paper to help Government streamline the byzantine system of quangos operating in the field of education and skills policy, potentially saving over £500 million from the public purse.

Responding to the ongoing political debate on the size, scope and efficiency of quangos, the CIPD believes that it is vital to look again at why they exist and whether they should continue to exist in future in the context of cutbacks in government spending.

The policy paper applies four newly-devised and rigorous ‘tests’ to six significant education and skills quangos:

1. Is it appropriate for the quango to receive taxpayers’ money for the role it performs?

2. Does the quango offer value for money in terms of what it has achieved?

3. Is the quango ‘crowding out’ or competing with the private or third sector?

4. For those quangos with few or no competitors, is the private or third sector able and willing to provide the same service or function?

Quangos in the Education and Skills System urges a thorough review of quangos using these four tests, so as to provide better value for money for the taxpayer and determine whether each quango is making a positive, sustainable and tangible impact.

Tom Richmond, Policy Adviser on Skills, CIPD, predicts that if the Government decided to either dissolve or sell-off the quangos scrutinised in today’s release, over £500 million could be saved in just two years.

Mr. Richmond said: 'Our new analysis highlights a number of worrying trends. For example, several quangos now offer free consultancy, free event management and free teaching materials for schools and colleges — all courtesy of the taxpayer'.

'There are even instances of quangos buying up their private sector competitors, while other quangos are lobbying 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'.

'The need for objectivity in these decisions is paramount given that, unless spending decisions are made in an open, transparent and consistent way, cutting spending on quangos could lead to a number of unintended yet potentially serious consequences in terms of job losses, union relations and even damage to our economy'.

Mr. Richmond argued that despite what some commentators suggest, many quangos perform vital functions and represent good value-for-money.

He said that with a strong political emphasis on protecting frontline services, quangos are inevitably going to face considerable scrutiny. The CIPD argues that the four tests outlined in the policy paper represent a fair and appropriate method for judging education and skills quangos.

The quangos discussed in the policy paper include the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, the Learning and Skills Network and Lifelong Learning UK.

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