John's Jottings for July/August 2004

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

It Takes Two to Quango

This country has had Quasi-Autonomous Non-Government Organisations or quangoes for many years. I don't recall when they were started or by whom, and I am sure that they can sometimes be useful bodies. However the present situation in Britain is worrying, and I have had recent cause to be extremely concerned about the profileration and extensive powers and budgets wielded by these unelected non-answerable (at least to the public) outfits.

I have personally encountered two unrelated but not dissimilar examples of what I consider to be devious, dishonest and downright dodgy. Local residents in both Rochester South & Horsted ward and another ward have also fallen foul of these shadowy outfits who appear to be able to do almost anything they want, often at huge (and some would say wasteful) expense. They will not, as a matter of policy, come out to meet the public, and hide away in their offices, plotting and planning.

There seem to be far more of these so-called Trusts and Boards than necessary, the whole structure definitely clouding and camouflaging what is actually going on, as I have discovered when dealing with these two matters both at Scrutiny and in my ward work. It isn't just one of these organisations that is involved with at least one of these two matters: one is a client of another, who in turn is merely working for or with someone else.

I cannot go into any greater detail at this stage, for very good reasons, especially as one involves a planning application that has not (at the time of writing this) been determined. Nevertheless, as the Scrutiny and Planning (Development Control) Committees meet in open session, members of the public have witnessed the proceedings and there can be mentions in the local newspapers.

Obviously, there is someone behind each and every quango, and this is central government. As per the title of these writings, it takes two to quango. Therefore we must be equally watchful of that government that set up so many of them, and to asky what purpose they truly serve It is starting to look as though they have been created to pursue certain ends that are not intended to have public scrutiny, and the sheer proliferation of them suggests that there is a lot of that kind of underhand activity now going on in this country.

Now I might be wrong, and what I have personally encountered is possibly very rare, but statistically that seems extremely unlikely. After all, if they were to work genuinely in the public interest, they as organisations and their bosses personally should and would be publicly accountable. In that case, there would seem to be little reason to set them up as quangoes in the first place, so why are they?

Next time: How Green is my Medway?