Analysis questions Government attempts to make quangos more accountable


Following the announcement last week from Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, highlighting that the Government is halfway through its quango reform programme, two academics have suggested that it is ‘narrow and possibly naïve’ to assume that accountability is increased by abolishing quangos and moving their functions closer to ministers.

While acknowledging the speed and extent of the current public bodies reform agenda Professor Matthew Flinders (University of Sheffield) and Professor Chris Skelcher (University of Birmingham) challenge the suggestion that the reforms will increase accountability to the public.

Writing in the latest edition of Public Money and Management, they say:

“First and foremost, to assume that accountability is necessarily increased by drawing functions closer to ministers seems to adopt a rather narrow and possible naïve approach to the topic. Narrow in the sense that arm's-length bodies are held to account through a set of procedures of which upwards accountability to ministers is just one form… And naïve in the sense that where quangos have been abolished elsewhere, and their functions absorbed within ministerial departments, the outcome has generally been less accountability rather than more… because functions had been placed back within a highly-politicised, partisan and adversarial environment.”



Contact: Tim Windle

CIPFA Press Office

t 0207 543 5600


Notes to Editors:

  • The article’s conclusion leads into a number of broader arguments concerning the structure and evolution of the British state beyond ministerial departments. These conclusions will be of great interests to politicians and policy-makers far beyond the UK.
  • The article analyses the Government’s changes to quangos in the UK and sets out five challenges for Governments wishing to adopt similar reforms. In addition to accountability the other four challenges are mapping to find out how many quangos exist, assessing their legitimacy, reconfiguring them and making savings.


CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. Our 14,000 members work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed. As the world’s only professional accountancy body to specialise in public services, CIPFA’s portfolio of qualifications are the foundation for a career in public finance. They include the benchmark professional qualification for public sector accountants as well as a postgraduate diploma for people already working in leadership positions. They are taught by our in-house CIPFA Education and Training Centre as well as other places of learning around the world. We also champion high performance in public services, translating our experience and insight into clear advice and practical services. They include information and guidance, courses and conferences, property and asset management solutions, consultancy and interim people for a range of public sector clients. Globally, CIPFA shows the way in public finance by standing up for sound public financial management and good governance. We work with donors, partner governments, accountancy bodies and the public sector around the world to advance public finance and support better public services. This includes the development of local professional qualifications in African countries like Lesotho and Nigeria and in Europe in post conflict states in the Balkans.


About Public Money and Management

PMM is an independent review of policy, management and finance in the public services. Articles are reviewed by academics and practitioners to ensure quality and practical impact. PMM is owned and managed by CIPFA, which wishes it to be regarded as a neutral forum for debate and dissemination of knowledge.

PMM has a multidisciplinary audience. It publishes articles which contribute new knowledge as a basis for policy or management improvements, or which reflect on evidence from public service management and finance. Readers include officials in all types of public service organizations; academics; consultants and advisers working with the public services; voluntary (third) sector organizations delivering public services; politicians; journalists; and students on both academic and professional courses. The editors welcome articles about developments outside the UK which offer clear lessons for British or other western practitioners.