An executive agency
, also known as a next-step agency
, is a part of a government department that is treated as managerially and budgetarily separate in order to carry out some part of the executive functions of the United Kingdom government
, Scottish Government
, Welsh Assembly
or Northern Ireland Executive
. Executive agencies are "machinery of government" devices distinct both from non-ministerial government departments and non-departmental public bodies (or "quangos"), each of which enjoy a real legal and constitutional separation from ministerial control.
Size and scope
Agencies range from Her Majesty's Prison Service
to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
. The largest agency in terms of staff numbers is Jobcentre Plus
, employing 100,000 people. The annual budget for each agency, allocated by Her Majesty's Treasury
ranges from a few million pounds for the smallest agencies to £700m for the Court Service
to £4bn for Jobcentre Plus. Virtually all government departments have at least one agency. The Ministry of Defence
has 36, the most of any department.
Issues and reports
The initial success or otherwise of Executive Agencies was examined in the Sir Angus Fraser's Fraser Report of 1991. Its main goal was to identify what good practices had emerged from the new model and spread them to other agencies and departments. The report also recommended further powers be devolved from ministers to chief executives.
A whole series of reports and White Papers examining governmental delivery were published throughout the 1990s, under both Conservative and Labour governments. During these the agency model became the standard model for delivering public services in the United Kingdom. By 1997 76% of civil servants were employed by an agency. The new Labour government in its first such report – the 1998 Next Steps Report endorsed the model introduced by its predecessor. The most recent review (in 2002, linked below) made two central conclusions (their emphasis):
- "The agency model has been a success. Since 1988 agencies have transformed the landscape of government and the responsive and effectives of services delivered by Government."
- "Some agencies have, however, become disconnected from their departments ... The gulf between policy and delivery is considered by most to have widened."
The latter point, is usually made more forcibly by Government critics, describing agencies as "unaccountable Quangos".
List of executive agencies by Department
Health (Department of)