On an embarrassing day for the Cabinet Office last Friday (24 September), both the BBC and the Daily Telegraph published leaked documents which appears to seal the fate of up to 180 quangos – 53 of which work with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

DEFRA looks likely to be the worst hit department by some margin, with the Department of Health recording the second highest losses, of 30 organisations.

A further three groups working under the Department for Energy and Climate Change are also faced with the chop.

However, with parties on both sides remaining, perhaps unsurprisingly tight-lipped, even now four days after the list was revealed it is difficult to ascertain the full credibility or impact of the report.

Among those faced with the axe is the Royal Commission on Environment Pollution, British Waterways and the Advisory Committee on Carbon Abatement Technology; while other, more high-profile groups, remain in the dark as to their future.

One inclusion which was met with some interest was the Air Quality Expert Group, which advises DEFRA on reducing air pollutants in line with EU Directives – something the UK has repeatedly failed to do and is now currently faced with Brussels-born threats.

While the cuts, described as a ‘bonfire’ by many in Whitehall, have caused outrage with Union leaders, environmental teams may not have met the news with too much surprise however, after the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, warned of such drastic measures in July.

Speaking at the time she said despite DEFRA being the ‘government’s emergency service’ many of the issues its quangos dealt with were now ‘mainstream’ and a ‘part of what the department does as a matter of course.’

Because of that, she said, they would be put onto the pile with others in any bid to balance the budget.

Sam Plester

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