The bonfire of the quangos – what it means for the charity sector

By John Copps 24 September 2010

This morning the BBC published a document leaked from the Cabinet Office describing the government quangos or ‘arms lengths bodies’ to face the axe. From it we learn a little more about how charities will be affected following the cuts to be announced next month.

You can see the document here, but below is a digested read of the some of the main ways the charity sector is directly affected:

• After six years, we say goodbye to Capacity builders and the Office for the Compact Commissioner, both set up to provide support to the sector by the Labour government in 2004. The document says that their functions will move elsewhere, presumably to the Office for Civil Society as part of an expanded remit. And, it goes without saying, there will be less money to go round to support the sector’s infrastructure.

• The responsibility for the Big Lottery Fund moves from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to the Cabinet Office. This seems consistent with the government’s move to make it more independent and the enthusiasm for a greater role for charities in public services. (I know there was always a feeling that the DCMS never quite understood the charitable sector, beyond museums, art galleries and sports clubs.)

• Some new charities will be created. A number of quangos, including the School Food Trust, are to be spun off as independent bodies. I guess these organisations will argue that this means a renewed mission and vigour to their activities – but if they do not make the transition successfully it will mean a slow death instead. Other candidates for this fate include Natural England and the Carbon Trust.

• The list reveals that dozens of other decisions are yet to be made with organisations such as the Youth Justice Board and Equality and Human Rights Commission hanging in the balance. Hundreds of charities rely the outcome of these decisions for their day-to-day funding.

We’ll learn more in the build up to the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement on 20 October, but this is a taste of things to come. Almost all of the cuts listed in this leaked document is small change next to the behemoths of public spending on health, education, crime and justice and benefits. We all need to brace ourselves for a month’s time.