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Public Bodies Reform

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2022

I am pleased to announce that, today, we are publishing guidance documents that will underpin a new series of public body reviews.

The review programme and associated guidance delivers against the commitments made in the declaration on government reform to increase the effectiveness of arm’s length bodies, making government work better for the citizens it serves.

Public bodies are a critical delivery arm of the Government. They work in tandem with their Departments to provide services to the public. The pandemic has considerably stretched public bodies. There have been some outstanding success stories, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs delivery of the furlough scheme, or the vaccination programme through the national health service.

The fiscal challenge this country faces is the greatest since the second world war. Arm’s length bodies, which are classified as such by the Cabinet Office, now spend over £220 billion a year, and employ over 300,000 people. The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee published reports last year demonstrating the need for the centre of Government to go further in supporting public bodies to succeed.

This is why Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Cabinet Office established the public bodies reform programme last year. Its mission is for accountable, efficient and effective public bodies that are fit to deliver the Government’s priorities. This will mean decision making is restored to democratically accountable Ministers, a reduced burden on the taxpayer and greater focus on every pound spent by public bodies. It is expected that the average public body review delivers efficiency savings of at least 5%.

Public body reviews

The public bodies reform programme has developed new guidance documents to provide information to sponsor Departments, public bodies, review teams and lead reviewers on the undertaking of the reviews of public bodies. The guidance is built on lessons learnt from previous review programmes and has been developed with the understanding that the public body landscape is varied.

Departments will lead these reviews. The Government are clear that scarce resources should be focused where they are needed most, so it will be for Departments to prioritise which bodies are reviewed and when. By undertaking reviews we can reassure the public that the Government are taking every possible step to level up our country, reduce the burden on the public purse and deliver first in class public services.

The guidance documents will be available on We will seek to review and update the guidance each year.