Ministers name ALBs targeted for 5% savings reviews

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, UK Health Security Agency and Crown Prosecution Service among bodies set for review
The DVSA is among the organisations being reviewed. Photo: Martyn Williams Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

The Cabinet Office has updated its list of arm's-length bodies set for scrutiny this year under a programme that was originally hailed as the successor to the coalition-era “bonfire of the quangos”.

Forty-five organisations will be reviewed in 2023-24 as part of the Public Bodies Review Programme, according to an updated list published yesterday.

They include the Social Mobility Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission – both of which operate under the Cabinet Office – and the Treasury bodies UK Government Investments and NS&I.

Also under the spotlight are the Crown Prosecution Service, Companies House, National Highways, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and the UK Health Security Agency.

The review programme, announced by then-government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg last year, aims to cut costs and could see the outsourcing of more services currently delivered by arm’s-length bodies.

It will aim to identify savings of at least 5% from the operations of bodies under scrutiny and assess whether there are “more efficient and effective alternatives to deliver the government’s objectives” – up to and including merging or shutting down some organisations.

Rees-Mogg said the reviews would build on the coalition government's so-called "bonfire of the quangos", which cut ALB numbers by a third between 2010 and 2015, saving around £3bn annually in administrative cost.

It is up to departments to decide how best to structure and carry out the reviews, following guidance published by the Cabinet Office.

Savings of “more than 5%” should be made within one to three years “and go further where possible”, according to the guidance.

The reviews will aim to determine that each ALB has “a clear mandate and remains relevant”; that it is aligned with the strategic priorities of the department and wider government objectives; and that its delivery model is effective, it says.

Reviewers will consider how ALBs could be made more efficient, through benchmarking and shifts to digital channels; and how to improve the productivity and efficiency of their workforces.

They are asked to analyse how successful previous shifts to service delivery have been – including those made as a result of the Covid pandemic – through digitisation or automation, and to consider whether they can save more money by digitising more services.

To help them benchmark their performance and efficiency, the review criteria also say ALBs should develop an understanding of how their costs compare to similar organisations; set out how they are using benchmarking data to improve policy or drive efficiencies; and compare themselves to organisations within and outside government – including internationally.

Last year, 40 organisations were prioritised for review under the programme, including the Met Office, UK Statistics Authority, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

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