This will be an excruciating afternoon for many quango chief executives sitting by the telephone. Many of them will be praying they don’t hear from Francis Maude, whose call will be as welcome as hearing from the angel of death. This is the afternoon when Britain’s arms-length bodies find out if they are to be thrown on the bonfire.
The official announcement will be made to parliament tomorrow. But expect some leaks this afternoon as chief executives break the bad (or good) news to staff. There is likely to be quite a few changes from the draft list, which was published in the Daily Telegraph some time ago.
Any headline number about the number of quangos culled or jobs lost (20,000?) should be taken with a pinch of salt. Many of these functions will still have to be provided, either by Whitehall departments or merged Super Quangos. The real test of the Maude Massacre will be the net saving on delivering these services, once the upheaval is complete and redundancy costs are factored in. Will it be greater than the 35 per cent average the Treasury is demanding from unprotected departments? Given how bloody and complex the upheaval will be, we may never find out.