Senior civil servants are drawing up possible plans to axe government ministries just days after UKIP published their manifesto, which includes pledges to cut government departments. The scoping exercise comes less than a week after the government announced plans to crack down on health tourism following UKIP leader Nigel Farage raising the subject during the leaders’ debates.
Civil servants in Whitehall have told the Sunday Times that up to nine of the 24 current Government departments may face the chop. “Fifteen is the minimum number [of remaining departments] they are looking at,” one senior Whitehall source has said.
Possible scenarios include scrapping the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Their responsibilities would be parceled out to other departments including the Treasury and the Department of Education.
A merger is also being mooted between the Cabinet Office and Downing Street, whilst the Department of Energy and Climate Change may be rolled into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Other possibilities include merging the Home Office with the Ministry of Justice, and the Department for International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Cutting the departments could save millions of pounds in staffing and infrastructure costs, officers believe.
They have also been drawing up possible cuts to quangos ahead of the election, on the understanding that whoever is in power will want to cut the cost of politics. Possible cuts include abolishing the Equality and Human Rights Commission, or the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which was set up in the wake of the expenses scandal as an independent regulator of MPs’ pay and perks. The quangos functions would be returned to Parliament or Whitehall to be dealt with.
The plans vindicate UKIP, which has suggested that the cost of politics could be drastically cut. In it’s manifesto, released last Wednesday, UKIP said: “The cost to the taxpayer of the Houses of Parliament, Ministerial Departments, the Home Civil Service and Whitehall-funded quangos is huge, running into hundreds of millions of pounds every year. UKIP believes we can make considerable savings at the same time as improving democratic accountability.”
Possible savings highlighted by the party include “Abolishing government departments when their essential powers and functions can be merged into other departments. Such departments will include the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Department for International Development, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.”
They also include “Abolishing unnecessary quangos such as the Cabinet Office’s ‘Big Society’ programme (£49 million), the National Citizen Service (£62 million), DfID’s International Citizen Service Volunteers (£110 million) and Defra’s Waste Resource Action Programme (£15.5 million).”