Since 2010 there has been an increase in the number of companies in government at the same time as a reduction in the number of public bodies which raises issues of transparency, accountability, governance and review.
There is currently no single, definitive, source of information about the number of companies in government but the NAO has identified 3,038 companies in government, including 2,591 Academy Trusts, 218 parent companies, and a further 229 subsidiaries of these parent companies.
Since 2010 and 31 March 2014, the number of public bodies has been reduced by 285. In the same period 11 new non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) were created as well as 173 new organisations not classified as public bodies, of which 66 are companies (this analysis excludes the 2,591 Academy Trusts, and includes 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies which have since been sold although government retains a special share)
There is no set approvals process for forming a company in government. There are clear approvals processes for public bodies and alternative models such as public service mutuals. There is no central guidance on when a company is the most appropriate form of new body.
The current accountability system does not reflect the differences between a public body that is incorporated (as a company, Royal Charter or statutory corporation) or not incorporated.