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Leaked list suggests 180 quangos to be abolished

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Source: BBC news and Third Sector Daily

The Commission for the Compact, Capacitybuilders and the Office for Civil Society Advisory Body will all be abolished, according to a Cabinet Office document leaked.  The three are contained in a list which proposes to abolish 180 quangos and merge a further 124.

The Commission for the Compact, which was established in 2007, was allocated £5.6m between 2008 and 2011 in the last comprehensive spending review and employs 15 staff.

The commission shares Birmingham offices with Capacitybuilders, which was set up in 2006 to oversee the previous government’s £231m ChangeUp programme, designed to strengthen the voluntary sector’s infrastructure.  Capacitybuilders, which received a £39.3m government grant in 2009/10, employs 49 staff. Its chief executive, Matt Leach, announced his departure earlier this month.  "Capacitybuilders will not comment on leaked information," said a spokeswoman for the organisation.

The Office for the Civil Society Advisory Body, previously known as the Office of the Third Sector Advisory Body, replaced three separate advisory bodies when it was formed in 2008 to advise ministers on what charities want.  Its chair, Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, is paid £12,500 a year and its 11 other members receive £250 a day for about 15 days a year.

The list, dated 26 August, includes groups linked to all major government departments.  The Cabinet Office has ordered a leak inquiry and says it regrets any "uncertainty" for employees.

The list of public bodies up for abolition, mergers or other reforms was included in a letter from Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to other ministers, written in August.  It appears to confirm the abolition of the Health Protection Agency and Audit Commission, which was already known, but also puts a question mark over the future of dozens of less well-known bodies.

'Substantial reform'

56 quangos are listed to be retained subject to "substantial reform" and a further 282 retained. Another 100 bodies, including the tourism advisory groups Visit Britain and Visit England, are yet to be agreed, according to the letter.  The future of the Student Loans Company, UK Atomic Energy Agency, Central Office of Information, the Carbon Trust and the Environment Agency are yet to be decided, according to the document.  The School Food Trust would have its status changed to an independent charity, Ofsted and the Food Standards Agency would be kept but subject to "substantial reform".

'Reducing costs' 

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office would not comment on the leaks but said the government had "made it clear that it is committed to radically increasing accountability and improving efficiency".  She added: "The Cabinet Secretary has this morning asked for an immediate investigation into the leak of a government document on Public Bodies reform. We deeply regret any extra uncertainty for employees that this irresponsible leak has caused".  And a Labour Party spokesman accused the government of "playing politics with people's jobs": "Any government should be looking to cut bureaucracy - but that shouldn't be confused with hitting valuable services in areas where independence is crucial."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the BBC he did not know how accurate the list was adding: "We are certainly looking towards removing a number of unaccountable quangos and reducing their costs but we haven't come to a firm view with regard to the numbers. But we will be making an announcement reasonably soon."