Research Project

You’ve been Quango’d! Mapping Power across the Regions
14 February, 2008

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strong>Government quangos are largely run by people from London and the South East according to research published in a new NLGN pamphlet. Based on an analysis of 1000 quango board members, NLGN have found that over 50% live in London and the South East, whilst many other regions are significantly under-represented. The research surveyed the primary residence of Board members.

The study found that four London boroughs – Camden, Westminster, Islington and Kensington & Chelsea – have greater influence than the entire North of England. The four boroughs control 15% of the quango membership in England.

Quangos are non-departmental Government bodies with a combined spending of £123bn a year. Their expenditure accounts for 21% of public spending. They also have considerable influence over the formulation and implementation of Government policy. Whilst the research argues that many quangos perform their function effectively, it questions why the people running these organisations should be based so heavily in the South of England. It also argues that “national diversity” should be taken into account when recruiting people to manage and run quangos.

Amongst the “worst offending” quangos included the National Portrait Gallery, 93% of whose board members live in London; the British Council with 80% of members living in London and the British Museum with 70%. Even the national broadcaster Channel 4 has 75% of its board members residing in London.

Many major cities outside the South-East are also under-represented including Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, while areas such as Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Oxfordshire are over-represented. Of the ten most overrepresented areas, eight are in London and none are in the North of England:

Ten most over-represented areas

  • Westminster
  • Kensington & Chelsea
  • Camden
  • Islington
  • Richmond-upon-Thames
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Haringey
  • Rutland
  • Oxfordshire
  • Lambeth

  • The least represented areas show a bias against the North of England. Over twenty areas recorded no representation on quango boards of those surveyed, including Blackpool, Darlington, Hartlepool, Hull, Plymouth, Wigan and Wolverhampton.

    The research calls for more quangos to be relocated outside of London and the South East and for local politicians to have a greater role in deciding who should sit on their boards.

    In the report, author Chris Leslie, Director of NLGN argues:

    “The report highlights the scale and power held by quangos and the areas of the country who have the greatest sway over this power. While London and the counties immediately surrounding it are home to over half of all quango Board members, there are in contrast vast swathes of England with apparently no voice on our public bodies”.

    “Looking at England as a whole, within each region there are clear concentrations of power, postcodes which are clearly more likely to produce the ‘great and good’ for seats on quango Boards. We suspect that the poorer the area you live in, the less likely you are to climb to the heights of quango board membership.”

    Publication Date: 14 February 2008
    Authored by: Chris Leslie and Owen Dallison