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Leaked letter: just 20 CABE staff set to join Design Council

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Design watchdog CABE is to be dissolved with around 20 of its staff being transferred to the Design Council, according to a letter from culture secretary Jeremy Hunt to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg

The letter sets out the details of the culture secretary’s proposals for the dissolution of the once 125-strong commission, seeking Clegg’s permission as chair of the Home Affairs Committee, according to sister title Construction News.

The plans include expanding the Design Council’s remit ‘to cover architecture and the design of the built environment by altering its Royal Charter and to import from CABE a limited number of its staff to give the Design Council the necessary expert capability’.

The letter said: 

‘In this way important elements of two leading bodies in design would come together, so giving local communities greater opportunities to have their say on how their areas should look and feel in the future.

‘The Design Council would be strengthened by bringing in the valuable skills, knowledge and expertise from CABE to create a one-stop shop, providing a service to industry, councils and local communities.

‘Without the prospect of further funding for CABE from other sources, I propose that the remainder of CABE should be wound up and the organisation will be dissolved and, if necessary, its property, rights (including those relating to employees) and functions may be transferred to other organisations (including the Design Council) using existing powers under CABE’s governing legislation, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

‘The general proposal has been agreed in principle by ministers in all three departments affected, and the only matter for which clearance is being sought is for CABE’s dissolution.’

The government plans to announce the move by 10 February and follows the cabinet office minister Francis Maude’s cull of quangos last September, at which time CABE’s future was left under review.

This was because it was jointly funded by the communities and culture departments and while the latter announced it would cease funding, DCLG was unclear of its spending review plans.

Discussions have since been ongoing between DCLG and the department for Business Innovation and Skills.

DCLG has agreed to provide funding to the Design Council in 2011-13.

The Design Council is being reformed as part of BIS’s arm’s length body reforms, and will become an independent charity out of the public sector, subject to Charity Commission agreement.

This was also announced last autumn in Francis Maude’s Public Bodies announcement.

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