There's a plan to save billions by abolishing quangos. It's a hokey-cokey thing. One government sticks them in, another government kicks them out. That's what it's all about.
The planners have left it up to a handful of civil servants to execute – and these exalted individuals presented themselves to the Public Accounts Committee for scrutiny. Or inspection. Or a chat.
The fearsome Sue Gray, known as a Cabinet Office "executioner", came along. She is actually known as "senior responsible officer of the reform programme". Like a proper gang boss she was too grand to talk – underlings did that for her.
There isn't space for a balanced account so we have to rely on superficial impressions. Ian Watmore pulls his lip when he's listening, as though he's alone in his car. Sir Suma Chakrabarti was at his 20th PAC meeting and he didn't feel the need to exert himself.
If this lot are in charge of restructuring billions of pounds worth of public spending, I'll eat my hat if it comes off.
They say they've examined 900 bodies, consulted and remodelled and abolished over £2bn already. No one really believed them. "It's a conjuring trick," Austin Mitchell said more than once, congratulating them. "The Civil Service has done its job – appearing to achieve something that ministers can crow over." Most of the savings have come from – he said – efficiencies that would have happened anyway.
And the time it takes! How long do you need to abolish 16 Agricultural Dwelling Houses Advisory Committees? Or 164 Internal Drainage Boards.
Mr Watmore said that he had critics on both sides – some saying he was going too fast, and others that he was going too slow. He inferred therefore he was proceeding at the correct pace. This is a disgusting misuse of reasoning, on the level of, "Even if this [Insert vast sum] saves the life of just one child it will be worth it."
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