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Executive agency

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United Kingdom

An executive agency, also known as a next-steps 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 Government 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. The model was also applied in several other countries.


  • Size and scope 1
  • Issues and reports 2
  • List of executive agencies by department 3
    • Attorney General’s Office 3.1
    • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 3.2
    • Cabinet Office 3.3
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer 3.4
    • Department for Communities and Local Government 3.5
    • Department for Culture, Media and Sport 3.6
    • Ministry of Defence 3.7
    • Department for Education 3.8
    • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3.9
    • Foreign and Commonwealth Office 3.10
    • Forestry Commission 3.11
    • Department of Health 3.12
    • Ministry of Justice 3.13
    • HM Revenue and Customs 3.14
    • Department for Transport 3.15
    • HM Treasury 3.16
  • Other countries 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Size and scope

Agencies[1] 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.

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 effectiveness 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 forcefully by Government critics, describing agencies as "unaccountable quangos".

List of executive agencies by department

Attorney General’s Office

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Cabinet Office

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Department for Communities and Local Government

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Ministry of Defence

Department for Education

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Forestry Commission

Department of Health

Ministry of Justice

HM Revenue and Customs

Department for Transport

HM Treasury

Other countries

Several other countries have an executive agency model.

In the United States, the Clinton administration imported the model, but with a modification of the name to "performance-based organizations."[4]

In Canada, executive agencies were adopted on a limited basis under the name "special operating agencies."[5]

Executive agencies were also established in Australia, Jamaica, Japan and Tanzania.

See also


  1. ^ Cabinet Office - UK Government executive agencies (Archived Page, retrieved 29 August 2014)
  2. ^ "Who we are". National Savings and Investments. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Department of Health - Executive agencies (Archived webpage, retrieved 29 August 2014)
  4. ^ Roberts, Alasdair. Performance-Based Organizations: Assessing the Gore Plan. Public Administration Review, Vol. 57, No. 6, pp. 465-478, December 1997.
  5. ^ Roberts, Alasdair. Public Works and Government Services: Beautiful Theory Meets Ugly Reality. HOW OTTAWA SPENDS, G. Swimmer, ed., pp. 171-203 Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1996

External links

  • Economic Research Council online database of all UK Quangos 1998-2006
  • 2002 Government report into the agencies model entitled "Better Government Services – Executive agencies in the 21st century" published by The Prime Minister's Office of Public Services Reform. Contains a list of agencies. (PDF)
  • Civil Service (from the UK Government Web Archive)
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