'They grow like multi-headed hydras': Asda chairman takes aim at government quangos after Post Office scandal

7 February 2024, 10:49

Lord Rose on Quangos

By Will Taylor

Quangos have become "multi-headed hydras" that just keep regenerating, the chairman of Asda has told LBC.

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Such bodies - quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations - are funded by taxpayers but not directly run by the state.

But largely self-run groups owned by the government are coming under increased scrutiny, with the Post Office scandal putting them back under the spotlight.

The service is owned by the government but effectively runs itself. It has been heavily damaged by the subpostmasters affair.

Nick Ferrari, speaking to Lord Stuart Rose on Wednesday, also pointed to Ofwat, the water regulator, which has been unable to stop businesses pumping sewage into rivers.

Asked about tackling quangos - bodies the Tories tried to cull after winning the 2010 election - Lord Rose said: "They've grown, like multi-headed hydras. They're self-regenerating.

"If you challenge what they do, it's almost impervious.

Read more: Police 'not picking up the phone' to attend shoplifting 'endemic', Lord Stuart Rose tells LBC

"It's a bit like dealing with the Covid virus. You can't find a drug to get in there and deal with them, and it's shocking."

He said he had recently taken part in a commission that reviewed the state of the NHS and Britain's health system.

But he believed the recommendations would not be acted on.

"One, it falls into the too difficult category. Secondly, it's always been done this way, hence your quangos self-perpetuating.

"And the third thing is, you will have to invest time and time will be, let's say, 10 years, and no government wants to invest now because they won't be in power in 10 years' time."

Read more: Ed Davey tells LBC he’s sorry he didn’t uncover 'profound lies' told by Post Office

Nick asked Lord Rose, a former boss at Marks and Spencer, if some quango staff would struggle to run the "Crodyon branch" of that store.

"You may think that but I couldn’t possibly comment… you are right," the peer said.

In a wide-ranging interview, he also told Nick that the authorities are not taking shoplifting seriously.

"Forty years ago when I was a manager at Marks and Spencer Marble Arch, the police would turn up. Now they don't even answer the telephone," he said.

He added: "The costs are soaring. The numbers are scary. We have to cover the costs. Margins are down to historic lows. We are a very efficient industry trying our best to help customers."

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