Leading article: Addicted to quangos

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Today we report that the cost of Britain's 800 "quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations" – or quangos – have risen by some £3.7bn in the past financial year, which represents an inflation-busting rise of 12 per cent.

Taxpayers are plainly being abused. These institutions are by definition unaccountable to those who pay for them, while being clung to by politicians scared of taking decisions or being held to account. It is not on to farm out responsibility to quangos in the hope that when errors occur the elected officials responsible will escape blame.

Given that this Government is far from immune to these accusations, it should consider cutting expenditure on these bodies in a time of recession. What better way could Gordon Brown find to meet the charge that he "bottles" decisions than by taking one immediately – to abolish the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the Purchase of Wine.