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Last edited 12 Oct 2021
Arm's length body ALB
In July 2016, the National Audit Office (NAO) published the Departments’ oversight of arm’s length bodies: a comparative study.
In the study, the NAO defines arm’s length body (ALB) as: “a commonly used term covering a wide range of public bodies, including non-ministerial departments, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), executive agencies and other bodies, such as public corporations. Departments rely on ALBs to carry out a range of important functions, many of which are vital to delivering departments’ strategic objectives.”
 Three predominant types of ALBs
Non-ministerial departments are not led directly by a minister; rather, they are led by a chief executive and by a board consisting of executive and non-executive directors.
Non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are not government departments; rather, they have distinct legal personalities separate from the Crown, and their employees are not civil servants. These are governed by framework agreements, which set out in detail the division of responsibilities between the agency and the sponsoring central government department.
 Structuring ALBs
When the study was conducted in 2016, the NAO found the ALB sector was confused and incoherent. The NAO discovered there was no single list of all ALBs across government nor was there a common understanding of when ALBs should be used or what type of ALB would be most appropriate for particular circumstances.
The study also revealed that different departments defined ALBs in different ways, and some ALBs were uncertain about how they related to their department’s objectives. The prevailing operational inconsistency hampered a coherent approach to overseeing ALBs in a manner that would be considered consistent with their purpose.
- Construction Industry Training Board CITB.
- Consultancy playbook.
- Government departments.
- Homes and Communities Agency HCA.
- Innovate UK.
- Procurement Policy Note 12/15.
- Technology Strategy Board TSB.
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