On 14 October 2010, the Cabinet Office published its cross-government review of public bodies.

The review states that a body should only exist as an arm's length body (ALB) if it meets one of three tests. These tests are:

  • Does it perform a technical function?
  • Do its activities require political impartiality?
  • Does it need to act independently to establish facts?

Department reviews its arm's length bodies

As part of the Cabinet Office review, we looked at our public bodies to see how we could improve the transparency, accountability and efficiency of the education system. As a result of the review most of our arm's length bodies (ALBs) will be replaced by four in-house executive agencies. These will combine the traditional policy functions of the Department with the advisory and executive functions of its ALBs.

The current status of all non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and ALBs linked with the Department, can be downloaded from this page.

What is the definition of an agency?

Executive agencies, as outlined in 'Public Bodies Reforms: checklist for departments', are defined business units that form part of a Government department. They operate with a degree of autonomy from ministers and the main department. Ministers do not concern themselves with the day to day running of agencies but are directly accountable to Parliament and the public for the overall performance of agencies and for their continued existence. Executive agencies typically deliver a service, do not have a separate legal personality and are staffed by civil servants.