Shrinking the state: analysing the reform of arm's length bodies (2012-2016)


Professor Chris Skelcher


Professor Matthew Flinders (University of Sheffield) and Professor Anthony Bertelli (University of Southern California)


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)



This four year project analysed the UK Coalition Government’s major reform of 'arm's length bodies' (ALBs – often called ‘quangos’). Quangos are a frequent focus for public, political and media criticism, regarded as unaccountable, wasteful, and self-serving. But they are also indispensible to modern government, preventing ministers from becoming overloaded, bringing expert advice and management to complex policy issues, and undertaking regulatory and quasi-judicial tasks that need to be politically independent.

The Coalition Government had a strong political commitment to reducing the scale of the quango state in order to improve accountability and assist deficit reduction. It reformed almost half of the 900 ALBs for which it was responsible. Our research asked whether and to what extent ALB reform will deliver the policy goal of a smaller, smarter, cheaper state, and what can be learnt from international and historical comparisons.

For further information about this project please contact:
Professor Chris Skelcher (