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Departments, agencies and NDPBs

Departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are the different types of organisations that make up the Civil Service.

Last updated - 15th November 2009


All departments handle an aspect of government policy – for example home affairs, or education. They are responsible for policy making in their sector, and in many cases for the service delivery as well.

There are 19 ministerial departments and 20 non-ministerial departments. Most departments have a permanent secretary in charge of the day-to-day management.

For more information on how each type of department is led, see Leadership.

Executive agencies

There are around 65 executive agencies. Each agency is part of a government department, but has its own management and budget.

Agencies carry out some of the executive functions of government, delivering many public services through thousands of offices and outlets across the UK.


A non-departmental public body (NDPB) are government organisations that are not part of any department. This means they operate at an arm’s length from ministers. There are four main types of NDPS.

  • Executive NDPBs carry out executive, administrative, regulatory and/or commercial functions.
  • Advisory NPDBs provide independent, expert advice to ministers on a wide range of issues.
  • Tribunal NDPBs have jurisdiction in a specialised field of law.
  • Independent monitoring boards – formerly known as Boards of Visitors – are NDPBs that are the independent watchdogs of the prison system.

To find out more, see Information on public bodies.