Executive Agency

From Academic Kids

An Executive Agency is a British public institution that carries out some part of the executive functions of the United Kingdom government. It does not set the policy or determine the resources required to carry out its functions – these are fixed by a Government Department that oversees the agency. However within this framework it is intended that Executive Agencies should be free to manage the implementation of policy as they see fit.

As of July 2002, there were 127 Executive Agencies. 92 of these report to Departments within UK central Government. The remaining 35 report to the Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Executive.

Agencies range from Her Majesty's Prison Service to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The largest agency in terms of staff numbers is JobCentre Plus, employing 100,000 people. The small is the Debt Management Office, which employs 40 staff. The annual budget for each agency, allocated by Her Majesty's Treasury ranges from a few million pounds for the smallest agencies to 700m for the Court Service to 4bn for Jobcentre Plus. Virtually all government department's have at least one agency. The Ministry of Defence has 36, the most of any department.

The agencies model of government was introduced to the UK in 1988 following the publication of Improving management in Government, a report by Sir Robin Ibbs, Efficiency Adviser to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The report heavily criticised the centralized Civil Service management of public services, saying that too much work was done on policy and too little on delivery, that there was a shortage of management skills in government and that there was a focus on short-term rather than long-term goals. The chief recommendation of the report was to set up Executive Agencies, each headed by a Chief Executive, that would concentrate solely on delivery of policy rather than policy itself. The first agency, the Vehicle Inspectorate, was established in August 1988.

The initial success or otherwise of Executive Agencies was examined in the Sir Angus Fraser's Fraser Report of 1991. Its main goal was to identify what good practices had emerged from the new model and spread them to other agencies and departments. The report also recommended further powers be devolved from ministers to chief executives.

A whole series of reports and White Papers examining governmental delivery were published throughout the 1990s, under both Conservative and Labour governments. During these the agency model became the standard model for delivering public services in the United Kingdom. By 1997 76% of civil servants were employed by an agency. The new Labour government in its first such report – the 1998 Next Steps Report endorsed the model introduced by its predecessor. The most recent review (in 2002, linked below) made two central conclusions (their emphasis):

"The agency model has been a success. Since 1988 agencies have transformed the landscape of government and the responsive and effectives of services delivered by Government."
"Some agencies have, however, become disconnected from their departments ... The gulf between policy and delivery is considered by most to have widened."

The latter point, is usually made more forcibly by Government critics, describing agencies as "unaccountable QUANGOs" [1] (http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%22unaccountable+QUANGO%22&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&meta=)

See also

External references

  • An official, comprehensive list of EAs and their departments (http://www.knowledgenetwork.gov.uk/elmr/minister.nsf/HOME?OpenFrameSet) (click Executive Agencies on the right-hand side)
  • [2] (http://www.number-10.gov.uk/files/PDF/opsr-agenciesm.pdf) 2002 Government report into the agencies model entitled "Better Government Services – Executive agencies in the 21st century" published by The Prime Minister's Office of Public Services Reform. Contains a list of agencies. (PDF)
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