The landscape of the UK public sector is densely populated with semi-autonomous agencies. A recent review counted 1148 semi-autonomous public bodies connected to UK central government or the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Farrugia and O’Connell 2008). The bodies are of different formal institutional types and include Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs), Executive Agencies, Special Health Authorities, Non-Ministerial Departments and Public Corporations. Taken as a whole they employ the vast majority of civil servants and perform a range of functions including the delivery of government services, the provision of independent advice and expertise, regulation of business and many other national-executive functions. While politicians or senior government officials have some input into staffing, goals, strategy and budgets, the bodies all operate at arm’s length from government ministers. The degree of autonomy varies between bodies and broad categories of semi-autonomous organizations. This chapter surveys the population of these bodies. However, it focuses largely on a revolution that has taken place in the last two decades in the use of executive agencies, a distinctive category of semi-autonomous public body which has come to dominate the structure of UK central government. These bodies now employ 50 per cent of all UK civil servants. Executive agencies have been classified as ‘semi-autonomous organizations…without legal independence but with some managerial autonomy’ and are less autonomous than bodies with formal statutory independence (James and van Thiel 2010) (Type 1 agencies as defined in Chapter 2 of this book).
KeywordsCivil Servant Chief Executive Performance Target Public Body Executive Agency
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