Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Stormont Executive pressed to set light to its own bonfire of quangos

The Stormont Executive is under renewed pressure to consider quashing more ‘quangos’ after the national Government axed almost 200 bodies.

In the long-awaited “bonfire of the quangos” — quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations — Minister Francis Maude announced 192, including the Film Council and the Audit Commission, are to be scrapped, while a further 118 will be merged.

In Northern Ireland, a total of 74 public bodies remain, employing a total of around 115,000 people and costing an annual total of £9.7m, and a review is already under way.

Health and social services bodies in the province have already been reduced from 38 to 17 along with health trusts cut from 19 to six — as well as renewed attempts to reduce the current 26 councils to 11 over the next two to five years.

The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association |said quango cuts were preferable to hitting front-line services and the task of economic regeneration.

Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “The UK Government is on the right course by drawing up a hit-list of those quangos which it regards as non-essential or those which could be merged them with other bodies.

“Our Executive has no choice but to do the same and look at every quango and ask the question – ‘Is this body really essential for the people of Northern Ireland?

“Cutting our vast number of quangos in Northern Ireland is preferable to cutting front-line services and economic regeneration projects.”

The Association, which represents more than 1,250 independent retailers and small businesses in the province, was supported by Ulster Unionist Assembly member Sam Gardiner MLA who recently revealed that 48 quango chiefs here are paid more than £100,000 a year .

“It is important for action to cut back on these bodies is taken her in Northern Ireland.

“It is simply not possible to justify this number of people on this level of salary in a place the size of Northern Ireland,” he said.

But Finance Minister Sammy Wilson told the Assembly earlier this year: “...even if those bodies did not exist, the work would still have to be done, and, even if they were done away with, the money would still have to be spent; it would simply be governed differently.”

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