Will Canal & River Trust make it?

Published: Friday, 27 May 2022

A government review into all arm’s length bodies, which is likely to include The Canal & River Trust, could see some bodies scrapped and significant savings demanded from those that remain, Roger Fox writes.

The newly launched Reviews of Public Bodies programme, run by the Cabinet Office, will examine the operations of all arm’s length bodies in England and assess whether 'they should be abolished or retained', as well as whether money allocated to them is spent effectively.

Savings should be identified

Savings of at least 5% per organisation should be identified as part of the review process.

The appropriate funding department will lead reviews in charge of each public body, meaning the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be asked to review the public bodies it sponsors including Canal & River Trust.

At present, arm’s length bodies in England spend more than £220 billion each year and employ more than 300,000 people.

Questionable in the case of the trust

The review programme, launched by Jacob Rees-Mogg—minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency will seek to ensure public bodies are both a 'necessity' and 'accountable, efficient and effective'. This could be said to be questionable in the case of the trust.

As part of this, the government said the process would ask whether the body is appropriately taking decisions under review or whether 'an alternative is more fitting'.

Rees-Mogg explained:

"Reviews will consider whether the body should be abolished or retained; whether it should continue to deliver all of its functions; and whether it has an effective relationship with its sponsoring department. Reviews would seek to reduce the burden on the taxpayer and ensure that taxpayer money is spent "with greater care".

Where it is concluded that a body should be retained, departments will be asked to identify a minimum of 5% of savings to each organisation’s expenditure, with a target to achieve this saving within one to three years.

This is a very interesting story given the early funding pitch made recently by Canal & River Trust.