Departments spend large sums through arm’s-length bodies and depend on them to deliver a range of important functions, many of which are vital to departments’ strategic objectives and provide critical services to the public. Overall, according the Cabinet Office, there are more than 460 arm’s-length bodies (including NHS England and HM Revenue & Customs) spending around £250 billion a year. The scale and role of arm’s-length bodies vary hugely, from large executive agencies, like HM Courts & Tribunals Service, to smaller non-departmental public bodies, such as the Gambling Commission. Although arm’s-length bodies usually have their own Accounting Officers, departmental Accounting Officers remain ultimately accountable to Parliament for the arm’s-length bodies they oversee. The National Audit Office report considered how four departments—the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport—oversee their arm’s-length bodies. The four departments oversee 116 arm’s-length bodies, which receive an estimated £25 billion funding a year, and employ around 144,000 staff, compared to around 9,200 staff employed in their sponsoring departments.
18 October 2016