Recycling agency WRAP faces the chop under Tory quango crackdown

by Published Mon 06 Jul 2009 23:01, Last updated: 2009-07-06
The axe awaits agencies like WRAP
The axe awaits agencies like WRAP

Green quangos such as the Environment Agency, WRAP and the Sustainable Development Agency all face sweeping cuts should the Conservatives take power at the next General Election.

In an attempt to reconnect with the voter Tory leader David Cameron says he will return the responsibilities of dozens of unelected quangos to ministers and slash the £43 billion needed to fund the UK's 790 agencies.

WRAP is expected to figure highly on the Conservatives cull list after it was revealed the agency's four-strong board of directors shared a half-a-million pound pay packet as a further £354,000 of taxpayers' cash was used to make 20 of their workers redundant in a cost-cutting exercise.

In a speech today, Cameron said it was vital to deliver reform of the quango culture to transform the “accountability of [UK] democracy”.

He added: “This approach to reforming quangos is a vital part of that change of fixing our broken politics and of bringing real people power to every aspect of political life.

“For every quango that exists, and for those that are proposed, we need to ask whether its role is really necessary, whether that role should in fact be part of the political process or whether it's right that it is independent of it.”

Quangos, an abbreviation of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations, employ more than 90,000 people and operate outside direct government control despite being funded almost entirely from the public purse.

Cameron said some quangos had a justifiable function, but in too many cases they had got too big and unaccountable.

“They start having their own communications department, their own press officers, they start making policy rather than just delivering policy, and their bosses are paid vast amounts of money," he added.

“The problem today is that too much of what Government does is actually done by people that no one can vote out, by organisations that feel no pressure to answer for what happens and in a way that is relatively unaccountable.

“This is a big part of the reason why people feel so powerless in Britain today. They don't have enough opportunity to shape the world around them. And it leads to the anger, suspicion and cynicism.

“I'm convinced that the growth of the quango state is one of the main reasons so many people feel that nothing ever changes; nothing will ever get done and that Government's automatic response to any problem is to pass the buck and send people from pillar to post until they just give up in exasperated fury.”

Cameron added: “We need to address the causes as well as the symptoms. And that means asking some searching questions about whether the many hundreds of quangos in operation today should exist at all - or at least in their present form.

“I believe a fair-minded consideration of the evidence can only lead us to one conclusion: that we do need to reduce the number of quangos in this country. But we've got to do it in a way that is responsible, and which recognises that there are circumstances where quangos have a useful and important part to play.”

In response to Cameron's speech, a WRAP spokesperson said in a statement: “WRAP believes it is absolutely right that there is close scrutiny of how taxpayers’ money is spent.

“Our top priority is to deliver what are asked to and do that very well, making sure we deliver good value to taxpayers.

“We think we’ve done a very good job and have clear evidence of that.”

The statement said in the last year WRAP had successfully:

• Launched the Construction Commitment: Halving Waste to Landfill, a voluntary agreement with over 100 signatories since its inception. These signatories, from all parts of the supply chain, have set resource efficiency requirements in contract documents to the value of £4.2 billion;

• Supported the recycling industry through a period of great economic uncertainty, actively supporting 101 recycling businesses and contributing to £64 million of turnover growth in the sector;

• Ended packaging waste growth in the retail supply chain, despite increases in sales and population, through the Courtauld Commitment;

• Helped an additional 620,000 UK households become committed to reducing food waste, saving them £250 million; and increased the proportion of households committed to recycling to 65%.

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