We can't sit around over Quangos, says Maude

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Indy Politics

The Government today defended its plans to axe scores of quangos after MPs warned it had "botched" the process.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude admitted the coalition had been quick to cut the number of unelected organisations but said it had to "get on with it" and could not afford to "sit around" having a "leisurely" review.

His comments came after the influential Commons public administration select committee savaged the Government's review of quangos and accused ministers of seeking excessive powers to axe even more.

It said the coalition's rushed plans - dubbed the "bonfire of quangos" - will neither save money nor improve accountability.

The Government announced in October that it was slashing the number of such bodies from 901 to 648.

Today, Mr Maude said the cuts would save "significantly more" than £1 billion. He added the review started with a "hugely chaotic landscape" and some 40 quangos were still being reviewed.

Mr Maude told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Of course there are going to be costs. If you re-organise anything there will be transient costs of restructuring, but the savings will be very much more than that.

"Under the previous Government they didn't know how many quangos there were and we kept finding more as we went on."

He added: "What we can't do, as governments have done in the past, is set up these bodies and then just forget about them. So, what we are saying is that for most of them they needed to be subjected every three years to a proper review otherwise they will just bumble along forever.

"We don't think we can just sit around and wait for things to happen. We want to get on with it. This has been delayed. This is long overdue. Everyone says that they support the aim of getting rid of a lot of quangos, simplifying it, getting rid of the duplication, often the conflict that exists between different quangos in the same area and, you know, it has got to be dealt with.

"So I wasn't willing that the Government should sit around and have a long review, we want to get on with it.

"We are not going to claim that this process has been perfect... but if you take over government in these circumstances where the Government has, in the words of the last chief secretary (Liam Byrne) 'run out of money', we had to get on with things.

"Has it been a perfect process? No. Is it complete? Not by means. This is the beginning of the process and should we have waited around to have a less rushed job? No. We had to get on with things, and we are doing that."