Civil Service Commission blasts “flawed” quango research

Independent recruitment regulator says campaign group’s league table was factually wrong and misdirected

By Jim Dunton

06 Jun 2016

A league table of quango board members compiled to expose ministers’ failure to deliver the “bonfire” pledged by Francis Maude in 2010 has been criticised by the Civil Service Commission.

The independent recruitment regulator said the research, released this week by campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) was factually wrong and completely missed the point of appointments to the boards of public bodies.

The TPA research listed individuals on quango boards, and the number of posts they hold. The organisation said that while the actual number of public bodies had reduced since former Cabinet Office minister Maude’s pledge, “most of the bodies abolished have been small advisory bodies whose functions have simply been transferred to other quangos or government departments”. 

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It said research covering the 2014-15 financial year showed that there were still “at least” 3,369 board members of quangos, that the organisations cost the state "tens of billions of pounds a year", and singled out a list of public figures with multiple appointments.

Top of the list was former FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume, who was described as holding five board memberships, including the Civil Service Commission, the Health & Safety Executive, and arbitration and conciliation service ACAS. 

Two other board members of the Civil Service Commission – Dame Moira Gibb and Andrew Flanagan – were included on the TPA’s list of people with more than two quango memberships in 2014-15.

The full list also included former Department for Education and Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington, who was simultaneously civil service commissioner and commissioner for public appointments.

A statement from the commission said the TPA seemingly misunderstood the nature of these roles, and said its use of data risked misrepresenting the work of some people.  

“It is hardly surprising that commissioners hold other roles – in a range of other sectors – as their role is part-time,” the commission’s statement said.

“On average, they work between four to eight days a month, chairing competitions for senior civil service jobs. 

“Commissioner posts are publicly advertised and typically attract very impressive individuals from the private, public and voluntary sector. 

“David Normington features in the Taxpayers’ Alliance chart as having two roles when in fact, the government advertised for a single individual to do both jobs. 

“He received a single salary, not two as quoted in the report.”

TPA chief executive Jonathan Isaby said the research indicated the “quangocrat gravy train” was very much still in service.

"It is deeply concerning that unaccountable quangos continue to thrive and seem to exist as a network for the public sector elite, many of whom have been in the system for years, taking on highly-paid positions at bodies with completely disparate purposes,” he said.

"Taxpayers paying for these cushy jobs will want to know what qualifies people to sit on the boards of several different bodies with completely disparate purposes.”

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