Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Quangos must die

Apart from electing 646 MPs - approximately one for every 70,000 voters - we elect some 23,000 local councillors. Unfortunately, they have about as much power as a dead Duracell on Christmas Day. Not only have councillors been neutered by the central State, but councils themselves are too big to be meaningful to many people. France has an elected local administration for every 1,500 electors - even the tiniest hamlet with three cottages and a dunghill has its Mayor - but 120,000 Britons are needed to get a government unit in its lowest form.

And those 23,000 elected councillors are dwarfed by 60,000 unelected people serving on 5,200 quangos. Yes, 60,000 people we've never had a choice in appointing, who serve on bodies exercising real power in the health service, policing, housing, prisons, training and economic development. Even your supposedly elected council must have its overall policy agreed by an unelected 'local strategic partnership' dictated by Whitehall.

In addition to those 60,000, there are a further 345,000 unelected school governors who have dismally failed to govern our state schools and 31,000 Whitehall appointees to central quangos.

What price democracy? Our elected representatives are powerless, whilst the central State's insidious agenda is advanced through thousands of unelected placemen. Make no mistake, this is the agenda of the metropolitan political class and a civil service out of control. The balance between central and local has been lost, and every one of us is poorer as a result.

Simon Jenkins points out that a third of the income of the 'big seven' comes from public sector work; in many ways they are the State's occupying troops. Where once the keep of the King's castle rose above Derby or Sheffield or Norwich as reminder of State power, now the steel and glass regional offices of PriceWaterhouseCooper perform the same function. And the most entrenched, the most negative, the most destructive, the most incompetent and the most antidemocratic of all the Whitehall departments is the Treasury, its malign effects magnified and multiplied by Brown's tenure.

Unless Cameron tackles the Treasury, he has no hope of making inroads into the quangos. He is concentrating on the 31,000 strong central quangos; maybe he will trim 3,000 unelected officials. In the meanwhile the Treasury will have created a further 2,500. The 60,000 local quangocrats will remain untouched.

School governors must govern schools, not Whitehall civil servants, and for this we must elect them. Local Watch Committees must manage local police forces, not the Home Secretary, and they must be voted into office. Who sits on the board of your primary health trust? Who governs your local hospital? You have no idea - but Whitehall does. Forget abolishing the Potato Marketing Board, David, and concentrate on how you can return power to the urban community, municipality and parish.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Mr. R. You are on a roll these days.

Don't be too hard on school governors, though. They ARE elected (at least, in Scotland they are/were). I was one myself for a number of years, and believe me their considerable problems ALL stem from the manifold restrictions and limits placed on their discretion by - yes, you guessed - central government acting through the LEA's.

Every time a "change" in their responsibilities and powers is made, it invariably has the effect of limiting their powers still further and returning real authority to the LEA beaureacrats.

Once the Scottish school boards were removed from the process of appointing Head Teachers (their only real power, and a very great influence for good), I resigned. There was no point in continuing with what had become merely a talking shop. For all I know (or care) school boards have been further emasculated or even abolished by now.

Power back to the people is what we need, as you say. Starting with the EU, of course.

Letters From A Tory said...

The amount of power that these quangos have is terrifying sometimes. Their budget can go into several billions for individual quangos, which means real power and real people's lives being affected by them.

We might not see these quangos on TV or read about them in the papers, but they are bloody important.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the more we find out about whats going on, the more we find that Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell's "The Plan" should be the next Tory Manifesto...

Also Daniel Hannan is a hell of a lot more compelling that Call me Dave...

Budgie said...

There is a good reason to abolish ALL Quangos: democracy.

Abolish: DfID; ID cards/database; membership of the EU; as well, and we would be more democratic and less in debt.

Tamianne said...

This is a very interesting post. I love this blog and much prefer it to reading newspapers as it is so clearly written, with plenty of analysis and always sums up the most important issues of the moment. I think of it as being the broadsheet to Guido's tabloid (although I think Guido's blog is great too).

I'm just covering the subject of the French system with regard to local authorities, mayors etc. for a university course I'm doing. It seems so much more democratic and I imagine things are more efficiently run due to the closer contact with communities. I just hope Cameron really would do what he has said and give more power to authorities on a local level.

Raedwald said...

Anon - Ok, I won't be too hard on school governors. You're right - they have no real power. The LEAs and the Children's Department have neutered them all. In England, they're appointed - and it's a matey-matey system, with stalwart members of the local party being rewarded with this minor sinecure.

But the reputation of my local primary school has a direct and significant effect on the price of land - on the price of my house - which gives me a locus in the appointment of its head, its admission policy, its funding and its facilities and resources. I want - no, I demand - a vote in the appointment of governors.

Raedwald said...

Tamianne - I'm blushing. Comments such as yours make it all worthwhile.

banned said...

The first to go should be the Regional Development Agencies since they are the unelected tools of Europe and Mandelsons prefered route to the Post Democratic Age. Note how they match the wartime 'emergency local rule' boundaries for which legislation is still in place.

The RDAs started off ( 1990s )as " The Government Office Of The North West " ( & etc. ) and spent a lot of time and money suborning local authorities and finding out how best to be spooky and undemocratic.