New Research: The TaxPayers' Alliance comprehensive and accurate guide to the Semi-Autonomous Public Bodies of the UK

  • In 2007-08 there were 1,148 Semi-Autonomous Public Bodies (SAPBs) operating in the UK
  • The amount spent on or through these SAPBs was over £90 billion in 2007-08, an increase of £13 billion from the £77.2 billion spent by those same bodies in 2006-07, and equivalent to £3,640 per household 
  • In 2007-08 SAPBs employed over 733,000 staff

The crisis in the public finances demands serious cuts in public spending. Politicians across the political spectrum are now looking at semi-autonomous public bodies – the quangos of UK Government – as a potential area for savings, and the last few months have seen pledges by all the main political parties to get a handle on the rampant expansion in size and cost of our quango state. As this debate rages on, and MPs decide where the axe should fall and what quango functions are essential and non-essential, the TaxPayers' Alliance publishes the only comprehensive or accurate list of Semi-Autonomous Public Bodies in the UK.

Read the full report here (PDF).

Key Findings:

  • In 2007-08 there were 1,148 Semi-Autonomous Public Bodies (SAPBs) operating in the UK, a small reduction in the number recorded in our 2006-07 survey (1,162). While some bodies have been abolished or merged, others have been created or included since the production of the last report.
  • The amount spent on or through these SAPBs was over £90 billion in 2007-08, an increase of £13 billion from the £77.2 billion spent by those same bodies in 2006-07.  
  • Spending through SAPBs in 2007-08 was equivalent to around £3,640 per household.
  • In 2007-08 SAPBs employed over 733,000 staff.  The largest employer was Royal Mail, with 199,018.
  • The UK Government department with the most (distinct) SAPBs in 2007-08 was the Department of Health (DoH) with 72.   
  • However, the department to spend the most through SAPBs was the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), which directed over £21 billion to its 23 bodies, £11 billion of which went to the Learning and Skills council, and £7 billion to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
  • The SAPB responsible for the largest public budget is Defence Equipment and Support (DES), which handled £16.7 billion worth of military procurement and supply for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).  

The report also calls for urgent reform and lists some of the common problems that arise from such a large, expensive and pervasive quango state, such as accountability, cost, cronyism, duplication of function and taxpayer-funded lobbying. The report includes a list of bodies that the TPA recommends should have their government funding cut. There is also a department-by-department breakdown of quango spending, as well as details of every SAPB operating in Britain today.

Download the full report, including tables and appendices here (PDF). 

Ben Farrugia, Deputy Research Director at the TaxPayers' Alliance said:

"Politicians are talking again about a bonfire of the quangos. But the terrible state of the public finances means that this can’t just be more idle talk, while politicians continue to use quangos to avoid taking responsibility for the state of public services. Public spending through the semi-autonomous sector continues to grow, making Government more remote and less accountable to the people who pay for it. A proper assessment of the value and utility of some of these bodies must begin right away, for Britain is going to need a leaner and more efficient state in the difficult years ahead."

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