Tens of thousands of jobs will be lost – the first of 600,000 in the public sector – as hundreds of quangos are scrapped, merged or fundamentally reformed in the largest shake-up of power in Whitehall for a generation.
A total of 192 quangos will be abolished and 118 bodies merged. Overall the number of quangos will be cut from 901 to 648.
Within minutes of the cuts being announced by the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, its website had crashed under the scale of hits from worried civil servants.
But last night ministers were unable to put a figure on how much money will be saved – if any, in the short term – or specify the exact number of jobs that will be lost. The Government currently spends around £38bn a year on non-departmental bodies, which employ a total of 325,000 staff.
Privately, ministers say that some of the changes may initially cost more than they save in redundancies, relocation costs and other liabilities. Other quangos may prove harder to close or reform than expected, and there could yet be changes to the programme.
"People are looking at this as the end of the process but in fact it is really just the beginning," said one official. "There is a very long way to go yet."
Among the main changes announced by Mr Maude are:
* Axing the Audit Commission, the Youth Justice Board and all the regional development agencies. Forty quangos will be abolished entirely and all their staff made redundant. Around 150 more will have some or all of their functions subsumed into central government.
* Amalgamating the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission into one super competition and market authority. Ofcom will lose its powers to review public service broadcasting and media ownership rules but will take over Postcomm which currently regulates postal services. The Government says 171 quangos will be "substantially" reformed.
* Scaling back the power of some quangos such as Natural England and the Environment Agency – preventing them from taking part in any policy-making or lobbying activities.
* Reconstituting several bodies into independent charities, including British Waterways, which looks after Britain's 2,200 miles of rivers and canals, and the Design Council.
There were very few specific details available for the worried civil servants or the broader public to see. Beyond the raw figures of which quangos would stay and go, ministers could not say how many jobs were likely to be affected either at individual quangos or in total.
Privately, officials admitted that some quangos might not be abolished for years as the cost of closing them immediately would far outweigh the cost of keeping them.
Unions condemned the plans as ill-thought out. "The fact that Francis Maude is unable to say how much will be saved and how many jobs will be affected by this cull shows the threadbare nature of the thinking behind these abolition plans," said Tony Woodley, joint leader of the Unite union.
Mr Maude insisted that the changes were not simply about saving money but about bringing in a "new era of accountability" in government. "For too long this country has tolerated ministers who duck the difficult decisions they were elected to make," he said.
"Today's announcement means that many important and essential functions will be brought back into departments, meaning the line of accountability will run right up to the very top, where it always should have been."
Labour said that it backed the idea of cutting the number of quangos but accused the Government of changing its argument over why they should be axed when it became clear that costs associated with closing them would not lead to any savings. "I am afraid the minister has become the most expensive butcher in the country," said the shadow Cabinet Office minister, Liam Byrne.
Sir Ian Magee, senior fellow of the Institute for Government, who co-authored the report on reforming quangos, called Read Before Burning, said that this was only the beginning of a very complex task of reform. "The review suggests that there are very few functions which government can dispense with entirely," he said. "But simply merging functions back in to departments will not necessarily lead to greater transparency."
Mr Maude said that decisions had yet to be taken about the future of 40 quangos which awaited other reviews. These include the Student Loans Company, which will learn its fate after the White Paper on higher education is published later this year.
One quango due to be axed which is unlikely to win much public sympathy is the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines. It was founded in 1922 by another Liberal-Conservative coalition government.
BODIES TO BE ABOLISHED...
Department for Business innovation and skills
Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Arbitration Tribunal: Organises compensation for the nationalisation of aerospace and shipbuilding industries. Abolish body and functions
British Nuclear Fuels Limited: Provides products and services to the nuclear industry and governments. To be abolished.
British Shipbuilders: Body that used to own the and managed British shipbuilding. To be abolished.
Competition Service: Provides funds and services for the Competition Appeal Tribunal. By April 2011, consider the case for abolition.
Consumer Focus: Investigates consumer issues and champions consumer causes. Awaiting review and probable transfer to Citizens Advice
Copyright Tribunal: Settles disputes in collective copyright licensing. Transfered to Ministry of Justice subject to final agreement.
Design Council: Supports and promotes design. To become an independent charity, subject to Privy Council agreement
Hearing Aid Council: Trained and registered companies making hearing aids. Abolished last July.
NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts): Invests in start-ups, supports innovation and growth. To become an independent charity. Endowment to be held in a separate trust.
Regional Development Agencies (x 8): Create regional economic growth. To be abolished with responsibilities transferred to central or local government and bodies.
SITPRO Ltd: UK trade body eases international trade, focusing on procedures and documentation. Abolished at the end of September.
Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property: Advises on intellectual property policy and law and practice. To be abolished. Some functions transferred to UK Intellectual Property Office.
Union Modernisation Fund Supervisory Board: Grant scheme providing financial assistance toindependent trade unions and federations. Abolished.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Advisory Body (WAB): Oversees regulations for disposal of household electrical waste. Abolished at end of September.
Capacity builders: Improves provision of adviceand support for charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises in England. Alternative provision under review.
Civil Service Appeal Board: Non-departmental body sponsored by the Cabinet Office hear appeals by civil servants against dismissal and premature retirement. To be wound down and transferred to the Civil Service.
Commission for the Compact: Works with the Government and voluntary and community sector to create guidelines for how both parties should work together. Functions to be carried out by Compact Voice and the Cabinet Office.
Government Strategic Marketing Advisory Board: Replaced the Advertising Advisory Committee, a consumer panel consulted on advertising. Any remaining function will be passed to the Efficiency and Reform Group
Main Honours Advisory Committee: Independent body advises on the distribution of honours. To be administered from within the Cabinet Office
Office for Civil Society Advisory Body: Senior figures from charity sector advise the Government on the its needs. To be abolished next March.
Security Commission: Investigates breaches of security in the public sector. Government will consider breaches as and when they occur.
Communities and Local Government
Advisory Panel for the Local Innovation Awards Scheme: Abolish body and function.
Advisory Panel on Standards for the Planning Inspectorate: Considers all complaints made against the Planning Inspectorate. To be replaced by Inspectorate's internal challenge process.
Audit Commission for Local Authorities and the National Health Service in England: Independent watchdog driving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in local public services. To be abolished.
Community Development Foundation: Network of community foundations that manage funds donated by individuals and organisations. Abolished
Firebuy Provides procurement services for English Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). To be abolished.
Infrastructure Planning Commission: Eases planning for nationally significant projects in energy, transport and waste sectors. To be replaced with Major Infrastructure Planning Unit in the Planning Inspectorate.
London Thames Gateway Development Corporation: A regeneration agency for the Lower Lea Valley and London Riverside. Abolish and devolve functions.
National Housing and Planning Advice Unit: Provides research and advice about provision of affordable housing. Abolished.
National Tenant Voice: Promotes the views of tenants in social housing. To be abolished
Olympic Park Legacy Company Ltd: Concerned with the long-term maintenance of Olympic facilities after the 2012 Game. Transferred to Mayor of London
Rent Assessment Panels/Residential Property Tribunal Service: Umbrella body holding tribunals to determine appropriate rents for properties. Transferred to the Ministry of Justice's tribunal service
Standards Board for England: Promotes high standards among local government professionals in England. To be abolished
The Office for Tenants and Social Landlords (also known as Tenant Services Authority): Regulatory body for social housing providers. To be abolished body. Regulatory functions passed to Homes and Communities Agency.
Thurrock Development Corporation: Abolish body and devolve functions to local government.
Valuation Tribunal for England: Legal wing of Valuation Tribunal, dealing with appeals regarding council tax. Transferred to the Ministry of Justice's tribunal service
Valuation Tribunal Service: Deals with council tax appeals, as well as appeals related to drainage rates Transferred to the Ministry of Justice's tribunal service.
West Northamptonshire Development Corporation: Promotes economic growth in Northampton, Daventry and Towcester Abolish body and devolve functions to local government.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites: Advises Government on matters relating to Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Abolished, transfer functions in relation to England to English Heritage.
Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships: Advisory body on funding related to preservation of historic ships. Abolished, functions transferred.
Advisory Committee on the Government Art Collection: Meets three times per year. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Advisory Council on Libraries: Abolish body and functions, as previously announced.
Football Licensing Authority: Concerned with the safety and security of spectators at football grounds. Abolished, responsibilities transferred.
Horserace Totalisator Board: Organises pools betting on horseracing. To be abolished and sold off.
Legal Deposit Advisory Panel: Advises the Secretary of State on legal deposit issues, including which non-print publications should be considered for inclusion in legal depost. Abolished, as previously announced.
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council: Abolish body and transfer functions, as previously announced.
Public Lending Right: Advises authors on registering for the legal right to payment from Government each time their books are borrowed from public libraries Abolished.
The Theatres Trust: Promotes the value of theatre buildings. To be continued as a charity.
UK Film Council: Funds and promotes British film. Abolish body and transfer functions, as announced.
Department of Energy and Climate Change
Advisory Committee on Carbon Abatement Technologies: Provides expert, independent advice to the Government on technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions Abolished last July.
Renewables Advisory Board: Advises Government on renewable energy issues Abolish body and function.
UK Chemical Weapons Convention National Authority Advisory Committee: Responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention. Abolish body and function
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances: An expert scientific committee whose remit is to provide government with advice on hazardous chemicals. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Advisory Committee on Organic Standards: Oversees development and implementation of organic standards and assists Defra with its supervision of the licencing system. To be abolished.
Advisory Committee on Packaging: Advises on compliance with the EU directives on packaging and packaging waste. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Advisory Committee on Pesticides: Advises on all matters relating to the control of pesticides. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees (x16): Adjudicates on disputes between farmers and agricultural workers living in tied cottages. Abolished.
Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales: Set up to fix minimum wages for workers employed in agriculture in England and Wales. Abolished - agricultural workers to be brought under national minimum wages legislation.
Agricultural Wages Committees (x15): Deals with complaints and disputes between farmers and agricultural workers over pay. To be abolished.
Air Quality Expert Group: Provides independent scientific advice on air quality. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Animal Health and Welfare Strategy England: Implementation Group Aims to improve the health and welfare of kept animals in England. To be abolished.
British Waterways: To be abolished.
Commission for Rural Communities: Promotes an awareness of the social and economic needs of people who live and work in rural areas. To be abolished.
Committee on Agricultural Valuation: To advise on agricultural valuation, calculating the measure of compensation for an incoming tenant, claimable by an outgoing tenant. To be abolished.
Commons Commissioners: Settles disputed entries in the registers of common land and determine the ownership of unclaimed common land and greens. To be abolished.
Darwin Advisory Committee: Helps poor countries meet biodiversity obligations contained within Darwin Initiative. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards: To be abolished.
Farm Animal Welfare Council: Reviews the welfare of animals on land, at market, in transit and at the place of slaughter. Reconstituted as a committee of experts Food from Britain Promotes exports. To be abolished.
Inland Waterways Advisory Council: Provides advice about the use and development of inland waterways in England, Wales and Scotland. To be abolished.
National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources: Provides advice on issues relating to the conservation and use of the UK's farm animal genetic resources. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Pesticide Residues Committee: Tests food and drink for pesticides. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: Advises on environmental issues. To be abolished.
Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee: Advises the government on the control of BSE and variant CJD. Transferred to the Department of Health.
Veterinary Residues Committee: Controls presence of residues of Veterinary Medicines in domestic produce. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Zoos Forum: Advises the government on zoo licensing matters. Reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Department for Education
British Educational Communications and Technology Agency: Ensures effective and innovative use of technology in learning in England. To be abolished.General Teaching Council for England Regulates standards of teaching in England. To be abolished.
Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy: To be abolished once the existing remit for the group comes to an end in December.
Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency: Concerned with formulation of curriculaand exams in primary and secondary schools. To be abolished.
School Food Trust: Regulates quality of school food to promote health. To be continued as a charity.
Teachers TV Board of Governors: Supports editorial independence of Teachers TV. To be abolished.
Department of Health
Advisory Board on the Registration of Homeopathic Products: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances: Advises GPs on prescribing substances such as food, sun cream and toiletries. Abolish and reconstitute as DH or Public Health Service committee of experts.
Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Advisory Group on Hepatitis: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Alcohol Education and Research Council: To be turned into a charity.
Appointments Commission: Provides recruitment services for Government departments. Responsibilities transferred to ministers.
Committee on Carcogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollutants: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Committee on Mutagenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Committee on the Safety of Devices: Concerned with the safety to patients of medical equipment. To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence: To be abolished.
Expert Advisory Group on AIDS: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Gene Therapy Advisory Committee: Oversees proposals of gene therapy treatment with emphasis on ethics. To be abolished.
General Social Care Council: Regulatory body for the profession and training of social care workers. To be abolished.
Genetics and Insurance Committee: Concerned with specific genetic tests, and their relevance to insurance. To be abolished.
Health Protection Agency: Publicises information to health professionals, the public and government concerning diseases and environmental hazard. To be transferred to the new Public Health Service.
Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority: Regulatory body for fertility clinics, IVF, donor sperm, advises medical professional. To be transferred to other regulators.
Human Genetics Commission: Concerned with social and ethical issues in human genetics. Advises government on social impact of developments. To be reconstitute as a committee of experts.
Human Tissue Authority: Regulatory authority on organisations concerned with storage and use of human tissues. To be transferred to other regulators.
Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV: To be abolished.
Independent Review Panel for the Classification of Borderline Products: Determines whether products are, or are not, medical products in-line with legislation. To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Independent Review panel on the Advertising of Medicines: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care: To be abolished.
National Joint Registry Steering Committee: Advises the Dept of Health and the Welsh Government on poorly performing hip and knee joint prostheses and monitors NHS and independent healthcare providers in carrying out hip and knee replacement surgery. To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition: To be reconstituted as a committee of experts.
British Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Caribbean Board: Aims to improve relations between the UK and the Caribbean.To be abolished.
Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the purchase of Wines: To be abolished.
Ministry of Justice
Administrative Justice and Tribunal Council: Aims to make the justice system accessible, fair and efficient. To be abolished.
Chief Coroner of England and Wales/Chief Coroner's Office: To be abolished.
Courts Boards (x 19): Provide recommendations for improvements to the administrative services within Her Majesty's Courts Service. To be abolished.
Crown Court Rule Committee: Regulates the practice and procedure of the Crown Court. To be abolished.
HM Inspectorate of Court Administration Inspects the systems that support the Crown, county and magistrates' courts in England and Wales. To be abolished.
Legal Services Commission: Works with solicitors and not-for-profit organisations to provide citizens with legal advice. To be abolished.
Legal Services Ombudsman: Oversees the handling of complaints about lawyers in Englad and Wales To be abolished.
Magistrates' Courts Rule Committee: Responsible for modernising court procedure To be abolished.
Public Guardian Board: Supervises the Public Guardian which oversees interests of people who lack capacity. Abolish.
Victim's Advisory Panel: Aims to give victims of crime a say in the reform of the criminal justice system. To be abolished.
Youth Justice Board for England and Wales: Aims to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people. To be abolished.
National Policing Improvement Agency: Responsible for building capability across the police service and providing professional expertise to police forces and authorities. Under review.
Security Industry Authority: Responsible for regulating private security industry. Phased transition to new regulatory regime.
The Government's Equalities Office
Women's National Commission: Represents women and women's organisations. To be abolished.
The Ministry of Defence
Animal Welfare Advisory Committee: Advises the MoD on the care of animals used in defence experiments. To be abolished.
Department for Transport
BRB (Residuary) Ltd: Looks after the residual responsibilities and liabilities of the former British Railway Board. To be abolished.
Commission for Integrated Transport: To be abolished.
Cycling England: Promotes the growth of cycling and cycle safety in England. To be abolished.
Disabled Persons' Transport Advisory Committee: To be abolished.
Railway Heritage Committee: To be abolished.
Renewable Fuels Agency: Allocates Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) to suppliers of biofuels in the UK. Transferred to the Secretary of State for Transport.
Department of Work and Pensions
Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission: Will become an executive agency of DWP.
Disability Employment Advisory Committee: Responsibilities transferred.
Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance Advisory Board: Transferred to the DWP.
Also on the hit-list
Earmarked for merger with other non-departmental public bodies:
* Central Arbitration Committee Certification Office
* Competition Commission
* Office of Fair Trading
* Gambling Commission
* National Lottery Commission
* Sport England
* UK Sport
* 101 Advisory Committees on Justices of the Peace
* Advisory Council on Historical Manuscripts
* Advisory Council on Public Records
* Crown Prosecution Service
* Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office
* Serious Organised Crime Agency
* Pensions Ombudsman
* Pensions Protection Fund Ombudsman
Future still under consideration:
* Construction Industry Training Board
* Engineering Construction Industry Training Board
* Film Industry Training Board
* Insolvency Practitioners Tribunal
* Local Better Regulation Office
* Office for Fair Access
* Student Loans Company
* UK Atomic Energy Authority
* UK Commission for Employment and Skills
* Central Office of Information
* National School of Government
* The Leasehold Advisory Service
* Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
* Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board
* Agricultural Land Tribunal
* Consumer Council for Water
* Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal
* Sea Fish Licence Tribunal
* Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
* Children's Workforce Development Council
* National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services
* Partnerships for Schools
* The Office of the Children's Commissioner
* Training and Development Agency for Schools
* Young People's Learning Agency
* Diplomatic Service Appeals Board
* Foreign Compensation Commission
* Great Britain China Centre
* UK India Round Table
* Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information
* Judicial Appointments Commission
* Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman
* Independent Safeguarding Authority
* Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner
* Police Advisory Board, Police
* Negotiating Board and Police
* Arbitration Tribunal
* National Employer Advisory Board