Wednesday, 29 March 2017

We Were Right

The Justice Committee have completed taking evidence into the TR omnishambles and we must now wait and see what cunning plan the MoJ come up with in order to explain handing over vast amounts of additional cash to the failing CRCs. Here's what Rob Allen makes of it so far:-

I Told You So

American novelist Gore Vidal described ‘I told you so’ as ‘the four most beautiful words in our common language’. But for those of us who predicted it, there has been little pleasure in seeing the debacle of probation privatisation laid bare in front of the Justice Committee during its short inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) that wound up this morning. It’s a shame the Committee has not done a fuller investigation. As with the MoJ Probation review, no written evidence has been invited. Perhaps both Ministry and Committee knew the horror story they would get-and the fact that the plot had all been told in advance.

So badly botched are either the contracting or management arrangements that the private community rehabilitation companies complain simultaneously that they have too few cases and that caseloads are unmanageably high. One CRC director gave ‘a wrong kind of snow’ type explanation for this but it’s hard to have much sympathy - unless that is, the private sector was actively misled by the MoJ – (a serious allegation made today which should be investigated). After all, one of the alleged benefits of privatisation is that it can transfer risks (such as changes in demand for services) from the government to the private sector.

But less than two years into the seven year TR programme, the contracts are having to be reviewed and presumably money found to bail out the multinational corporations that run most of the CRCs. Did anyone seriously believe that with the same overall budget, the new Probation and CRC set up could be expected to supervise and rehabilitate 25 per cent more offenders than the Probation Trusts they replaced? The result is that the through the gate supervision of short term prisoners post release – the supposed jewel in the crown of TR- according to one witness amounts to “£46 and a leaflet”, compared to just £46 previously.

Despite that reality, a witness told the Committee today that courts are imposing more short term prison sentences than pre-TR, thinking offenders will now get punishment plus help. The Chairman of the Magistrates Association said last week that if sentencers do not have confidence in the robustness of the alternatives to custody, they may conclude that there is no alternative to custody. These adverse risks for prison numbers were well rehearsed but ignored during TR’s rushed implementation. Just as worrying was today’s evidence that CRCs are not getting breach paperwork to court in time.

One ray of light in an otherwise gloomy landscape looks to be in the North East where the Durham and Tees Valley CRC seems to be avoiding most of the pitfalls. It’s no coincidence perhaps that it’s a single not for profit organisation run by a consortium of local organisations where staff have designed the operating model. Unlike elsewhere morale is good. But looked at in the round it’s hard to see how the Justice Committee can find TR so far anything but a major failure of public administration.

What is to be done? The reality is that with some crutches from the MoJ review, the arrangements are likely to limp on until 2021 but unless there’s a drastic improvement, something different will be needed then if not before. In London, the Mayor’s Office wants to join the oversight arrangements of the CRC “with the intention of devolving the full contract and commissioning responsibilities once the current contract ends”. If performance in the capital does not improve, maybe that should happen sooner. A more genuinely local approach rooted in Justice Reinvestment is surely the next chapter for probation after this tale of woe.

Rob Allen

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Select Committee Special 3

Another extraordinary evidence-gathering session of the Justice Committee's inquiry into the TR omnishambes can be viewed here. We'll have to wait a few days for the transcript, but in the meantime I'll offer a couple of comments.

Once again the true horror of TR is laid bare for all to see and it beggars belief that supposedly intelligent people thought it was a good idea and had any chance of working. Having said that, I'm afraid the contribution from the Probation Institute was mealy-mouthed as usual and apart from using the platform to argue for them being given the role of regulator and licencing authority, could offer no coherent plan for repairing the damage.

The same cannot be said for Ben Priestley of Unison however, who proved to be on top of his brief, was well-prepared and gave a barnstorming performance, in stark contrast to Ian Lawrence of Napo who even had difficulty knowing the salary range of a PO. 

This was the opportunity to really hit the Justice Committee with facts, figures, some blunt, coherent analysis, sound argument and most-importantly of all, a plan B. Ben did all this in spades and made a strong case for a return to local accountability and involvement of Police and Crime Commissioners in future probation provision. The session is well worth watching for his contribution alone.         

Select Committee Special 2

Q114 Jo Stevens: Ms Thomas, if this had been piloted, do you think that we would have avoided all the problems we have heard about today? 

Yvonne Thomas: The honest answer is that, having been on both the delivery and the receiving end of pilots in government over many years, I suspect that, if anything had been piloted, it would probably never have happened, due to the complexity of this and the frequent change of administration in the course of it. 

Chair: That is very interesting. 


The Justice Committee will be taking more evidence this morning for their inquiry into the TR omnishambles:-

Next meeting 
28 March 2017 9:45 am

Oral Evidence Session Transforming Rehabilitation


Professor Paul Senior, Chair, Probation Institute
Helen Schofield, Acting Chief Executive, Probation Institute
Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, NAPO
Ben Priestly, National Officer, Unison
Gabriel Amahwe, Director of Probation, Thames Valley Community Rehabilitation Company
Mike Maiden, Chair, Achieving Real Change in Communities (ARCC)
Bronwen Elphick, CEO, Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company 


I think it's worth reminding ourselves what the privateers told the Committee last week during their session:-  

Examination of witnesses Witnesses: Yvonne Thomas and Rich Gansheimer. 

Q74 Chair: Good morning, both of you. Thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us. Like the other witnesses, could you introduce yourselves and your organisations, for the record? 

Yvonne Thomas: I am Yvonne Thomas. I am the managing director for justice for Interserve. 

Rich Gansheimer: I am Rich Gansheimer. I am chief executive officer for MTCnovo. 

Q75 Chair: That is very helpful to us. In terms of names people are familiar with, Interserve, in particular, deals with a number of CRCs: Manchester, Merseyside, Yorkshire and Hampshire. 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. We have five of the CRCs and handle about a quarter of the case load nationally. 

Q76 Chair: As I recall, MTCnovo deals with London, my local CRC, and Thames valley. 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes. 

Q77 Chair: You have heard the questions that were raised before. There are challenges here, aren’t there? Things are often described as patchy, at best. Why is that? Where do you think responsibility for that and for sorting it out lies? 

Yvonne Thomas: There are challenges. This is a massive transformation programme, and it is 24 months in. The challenges that I would highlight are some that have been referred to this morning. The first is the through-the-gate service, which has not been delivering what was expected, either from the CRCs’ perspective or from the offenders’ perspective. We tend to forget them in this sometimes. There are a number of reasons for that. In our case, mobilisation took longer than expected. We use an entirely third sector delivery model for our through- the-gate services. We were mobilising 19 prisons and over 160 third sector staff, so it took longer. The service started in May 2015, a few months after the contract. It is a very bureaucratic requirement. There are lots of forms to be filled in. There is not a great deal about through-the-gate. 

Q78 Chair: Is this a requirement set down by the MOJ? 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. We get an average of £60 for a resettlement. We pay out a lot more than that, but, by the time you have filled in all the forms, it is still not enough. We are talking about a context where you are operating in prisons. The challenges there are well understood. Getting access to prisoners to do the resettlement work is challenging enough. In some prisons, when you get access to those prisoners, they are more or less receptive to what you are trying to do. There are a number of challenges. However, a through-the-gate service has to be local. With the blessing of the MOJ, we are now working with Leeds, Styal, Risley and Winchester, because there is an empowered governor agenda. We believe that those services must be defined locally and with the prison governor, for local delivery. That makes sense to us, not more national legislation on what we should and should not be doing in Leeds or Winchester. That does not work too well. The second area is relationships with sentencers. National Probation Service advice to the courts, through pre-sentence reports, has been increasingly under pressure, with more and more oral reports. That has meant that the relationship between CRCs, the National Probation Service and sentencers has simply not matured in the way in which it needs to. 

Q79 Chair: So you do not disagree with Mr Richardson’s point. 

Yvonne Thomas: Not at all. We have seen a considerable fall in, for example, the ordering by magistrates of accredited programmes, which are one of the few very evidence-based interventions that will reduce reoffending. That set of relationships is still very immature. Finally, Dame Glenys remarked on the sustainability of the service—the commercial issues. The payment mechanism is not working as was intended. I have to question some terminology that has been used with regard to “workload” and “case load.” Since we took over the service, case loads in our five CRCs have risen by between 25% and 47%. Those are the MOJ’s figures. The technical mechanism that is used to calculate the payment, which is called a WAV, has fallen by between 14% and 34%. Our workload is going up, but our payment is going down. 

Q80 Chair: You are making less money than you expected. 

Yvonne Thomas: It is not sustainable. 

Q81 Chair: Are you going to continue in the business, or do you intend to withdraw from the contract? 

Yvonne Thomas: There is a technical problem here. Really, that is down to the current review by the Ministry of Justice. All that we want is that the workload is reflected in the payment mechanism. We believe that there is a technical problem with it. It needs to be fixed. 

Q82 Chair: If it is not fixed, you are out. That is the truth of it, isn’t it? 

Yvonne Thomas: It starts to get very tricky. 

Q83 Chair: All right. Mr Gansheimer? 

Rich Gansheimer: There are five challenges I would like to talk to. They may have been repeated already this morning, so it will probably not be much surprise. The first is around managing expectations of such a large reform. We, the ownership of the CRCs, are a couple of years into this. I recognise, from a policy format, that reform has been talked about and legislation has gone through for quite a while—over a number of years—but operational delivery of this reform, at the CRC level, has been over just two years. Creating stability—financially, commercial and operationally—for the CRCs to be successful is critical here. Part of that is the discussion that we have already had. 

Q84 Chair: What is the position financially as far as your CRCs are concerned? Is the workload what you expected? 

Rich Gansheimer: We have had the pay mechanism, which we refer to as a fee-for-service mechanism, built into a fixed cost base. Clearly, there is a gap. The case loads have grown by approximately the same amount over time. Obviously, the award of cases has an impact on that. It is a matter of saying, “What happens to that gap in the middle?” That is where the investment goes— 

Q85 Chair: Do you agree with Ms Thomas that it is not sustainable at the moment? 

Rich Gansheimer: Under the current format, no. I agree with that. That is why the probation service review is being undertaken currently—for us to have those discussions and to find out what is sustainable and will work. 

Q86 Chair: Without a change, your company, too, would have to consider its future. 

Rich Gansheimer: The board would certainly have to make that decision. That line has not been drawn yet. We are engaged fully with that. 

Q87 Keith Vaz: Ms Thomas, how much is the contract worth to your company? 

Yvonne Thomas: I will come back to you with the precise number, but it is of the order of £80 million to £90 million a year across the five CRCs, to run a quarter of the service. 

Q88 Keith Vaz: It is £80 million to £90 million a year. 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. 

Q89 Keith Vaz: Mr Gansheimer, yours is an American company, but it is operating here. Rich Gansheimer: We are MTCnovo. We are a joint venture here in the UK—partly American, but also a UK joint venture. 

Q90 Keith Vaz: What is the contract worth for you? 

Rich Gansheimer: We are in the same range. It is slightly lower— between £78 million and £88 million. 

Q91 Keith Vaz: Together, you will deliver 50%. Is that right? Ms Thomas, you are 25% of the total amount that is being delivered. 

Yvonne Thomas: In case load terms, yes. 

Q92 Keith Vaz: Mr Gansheimer, you are also 25%. 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes. 

Q93 Keith Vaz: In answer to the Chair’s question, if you decide that it is not financially viable and your shareholders start revolting against the board, because you are making a loss, you will just leave. 

Rich Gansheimer: I cannot answer specifically for our board. 

Q94 Keith Vaz: No, but if that happens— 

Rich Gansheimer: Clearly, there is a point at which a decision has to be taken. That is one of the options that would be on the table for discussion. 

Q95 Keith Vaz: So, yes. 

Yvonne Thomas: We think that the review is quite positive at the moment and that the MOJ is listening. We believe that this is addressable well within the original cost envelopes that were proposed. At the moment, you are operating hugely below the cost envelopes that were allowed. It seems entirely sensible to us that the review is taking place at this point in the process. There are some technical problems with the mechanisms, without a doubt. 

Q96 Keith Vaz: Sure. Ms Thomas, whom do you blame for this? Responsibility has to be placed on an organisation or an individual. That is what would happen in the private sector, isn’t it? 

Yvonne Thomas: Having been part of the team all the way through the discussions, the procurements and so on, I have seen this from the beginning. If we look at this and say, “What should people have known?”, the answer is that this was a first generation of attempting to do something quite transformative, so I sort of understand why we do not know everything. The predictions around volumes and case loads could have been more accurate, in that the expectation that was set was much higher—and much more in line with what we actually have. However, this technical mechanism is an overcomplicated payment mechanism. That was quite obscured during the development of the bid by the MOJ. 

Q97 Keith Vaz: Mr Gansheimer, you are obviously a very big company. You operate in America and here. Is it done better somewhere else? 

Rich Gansheimer: As far as the commissioning or the contract is concerned? 

Q98 Keith Vaz: Or whatever. Has somebody else got the secret of how this works? 

Rich Gansheimer: There is a lot of variation in how it works, in my experience, and I have been around a lot of different contracts. What I have found works best is that the work is clearly defined, the standards are clearly laid out, the expectations are clearly put to the providers and we are held to account to meet those expectations. 

Q99 Keith Vaz: None of that is happening here. 

Rich Gansheimer: I will not say that none of that is happening. I echo what Yvonne, my colleague from Interserve, has said about what was put out for bid and what we purchased in reality. It is not for me or MTCnovo to say, “Absolutely, that is the person to blame.” 

Q100 Keith Vaz: You were very clear on the five issues that you have just outlined. Would you have liked that clarity? 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes—clarity and stability around that being delivered. 

Q101 Keith Vaz: Which is lacking in this case. 

Rich Gansheimer: That is where the probation service comes in—to go back to the table and have that discussion. I also echo the point that, as this is a first-generation outsource, there are complexities around the commerciality of it, what needs to be delivered and so on. 

Q102 Mr Hanson: Did either of you do due diligence on the Ministry of Justice? It seems to me that, if you were entering into this sort of contract, you would expect the expectations that were put on you to have been thought through by the MOJ. Did you do any due diligence? 

Rich Gansheimer: That is a fair question. Yes, absolutely. The issue is when you go in and see the data that are presented. We had no reason to doubt the data that were being put in. That is what we were expected to bid to. 

Q103 Mr Hanson: You have been sold a pup, haven’t you? 

Rich Gansheimer: What has come to fruition from what we purchased has not happened, in terms of the volumes and some of the capability of some services. 

Q104 Mr Hanson: What would you say to those who say that you just saw pound and dollar signs yourselves and thought, “We will have a bit of that,” without thinking it through? 

Rich Gansheimer: No. When you bid for a service, particularly in the government sector, you always bid at a level of risk. This has certainly gone beyond the level of risk that we could have expected or imagined would happen so quickly. 

Q105 Mr Hanson: The question we have been talking about is, was any of this foreseeable beforehand? Did you anticipate that there was a risk of failure on your part, based on the terms that were set by the MOJ in 2012, 2013 and 2014? 

Rich Gansheimer: Let me be clear about your point. What was the question? 

Q106 Mr Hanson: Did you sense that there was an opportunity for you, but also a risk of failure, based on the terms that were set, or did you just see it as something that you could achieve because it was going to be dealt with by the MOJ on the terms that it had set? 

Rich Gansheimer: Based on what was laid out by the MOJ and what we felt we could accomplish, we felt that this was an opportunity that was worth pursuing. 

Q107 Mr Hanson: If this all goes belly up at some point, do you have any contractual liabilities towards the MOJ where you see it as not having met its part of the deal? 

Rich Gansheimer: There would certainly be discussions around that, in terms of what was known, what was not known and how that was presented at the time. 

Q108 Mr Hanson: The bottom-line question is, did you anticipate these difficulties when you signed the contracts in 2014? 

Rich Gansheimer: Not to the extent that they have occurred. As I said earlier, you certainly expect a level of risk to come into these contracts. That is not uncommon, especially with a first-generation contract. However, I do not think that we could have anticipated in any way the extent to which it has gone. 

Q109 Mr Hanson: Yvonne, do you differ from any of that? 

Yvonne Thomas: No. When we have been in discussion with the Ministry of Justice, all providers have expressed the view, to a greater or lesser extent, that if anyone did not do their due diligence, all eight did not. That is unlikely. The statistical basis for the contracts was very well laid out. We have to trust the customer—any provider does. If that is the expectation that is set, that is what you bid against. That is what we did. As Rich said, there is always risk, but there is risk that you know how to manage. That is why we enter this business. It is really important to say that, from the commercial perspective, the only way to make a decent return on these contracts is to reduce reoffending. That was a very attractive thing. You have to address the core problem in order to make these contracts worth running. 

Q110 Mr Hanson: How long does the MOJ have to sort this out before you walk? 

Yvonne Thomas: I do not think that there is any talk of walking at the moment. We are not at that stage. We are in a process of quite positive engagement. 

Q111 Mr Hanson: How long does the MOJ have? 

Rich Gansheimer: I would echo that response. As I said earlier, the line in the sand has not been drawn. We have not had that discussion. As long as we are engaged and are looking forward to a successful probation service review outcome, there is no reason to have that broader discussion at this point. As you can see, we are optimistic about the review. We have been very transparent throughout it. They have been engaged as well, as Yvonne said earlier. It has been a good process to work through these very challenging issues—no question. 

Yvonne Thomas: There is no reason why this mechanism cannot be fixed, if there is a will to do it. It will not cost the public purse any more, and it will address the issues. If that is the case, I am sure that it is not beyond us and the MOJ to fix it. 

Q112 Chair: Some potential providers pulled out at quite an early stage because they did not think that the contracts were viable. That was not the assessment that you made. 

Rich Gansheimer: I cannot say why they pulled out; I have no idea. I am aware that some did. 

Q113 Chair: Obviously, viability is an issue that you would all consider. 

Yvonne Thomas: My understanding is that one provider pulled out because it won a singleton contract. It expected to get more. 

Q114 Jo Stevens: Ms Thomas, if this had been piloted, do you think that we would have avoided all the problems we have heard about today? 

Yvonne Thomas: The honest answer is that, having been on both the delivery and the receiving end of pilots in government over many years, I suspect that, if anything had been piloted, it would probably never have happened, due to the complexity of this and the frequent change of administration in the course of it. 

Chair: That is very interesting.

Q115 Alex Chalk: Can I make sure that I understand? Some of the criticisms that have been made, including by Dame Glenys, are that the innovation that we were all hoping to see by CRCs is not really being delivered, which is a bit disappointing. Do you accept that? Whether it is your fault or not does not really matter. Do you accept that there is not the innovation that we might have hoped to see? 

Rich Gansheimer: I accept the criticism regarding innovation. At the same time, there is investment going into innovation. A lot of it sits in the ICT we talked about earlier. 

Q116 Alex Chalk: Forgive me; I do not mean to cut across you. Leave aside the investment for a moment. Do you think that it is delivering the innovation that we hoped to see? 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes. I think that there is a level of innovation. The challenges have been to bring it through. One of the big innovations is around case management—getting a single case management system that is pretty whizzy, in terms of being able to identify the needs of service users and offenders very quickly, to make referrals to the appropriate interventions and to make sure that we get that captured. As you have probably seen in numerous reports, the current system does not allow that. It is very clunky; we heard some previous testimony about that. We have continued to invest in further innovation around programmes. Has there been a pullback on some of that? Clearly, when the financials are not adding up, you have to make some financial decisions about what stays and what goes. As we talked about earlier, you have to work to a baseline to deliver these contracts, particularly around service levels. 

Q117 Alex Chalk: Very simply, the point is, “Less money, less innovation.” Is that fair? 

Yvonne Thomas: To an extent. I would not underestimate the level of innovation that is happening out there. In due course, as the inspectorate inspects more of the CRCs and wider case loads, it will start to see that. For example, there has never been a national service for the very chaotic, very complex people we deal with. That has now been completely invented and delivered across our five CRCs. That could never have happened under the old regime, and it is making a difference. On women’s services, we have everything from pop-up services to new collaborations between local authorities, PCCs and ourselves. There is a lot going on out there, and it is quite exciting. The frustration is that we talk about “the CRCs.” There are eight different providers, with many different models. All of them are doing some good things, and all of them are facing some challenges. You cannot take the worst of everything or the best of everything. 

Alex Chalk: That is fine. Understood. 

Q118 Kate Green: You have talked about the workload, which seems to be very heavy for you. What is not getting done? 

Yvonne Thomas: At the moment, because we were very cautious about our staffing numbers, everything that needs to be done around public protection, breaching and risk—the basics of running the service against the 102 probation instructions we are governed by—is being discharged pretty well. Case load ratios are starting to move up, which is worrying. We also have about 210 staff from the voluntary sector, who are providing a lot of the rehabilitative interventions. At the moment, we are holding it steady, but if these case loads continue to move and the payments continue to diminish, the first thing that we will do—as Richard will—is look at the discretionary spend. In our case, that is about £10 million a year. After that, you have to start saying, “If we can’t deliver this service safely, we shouldn’t deliver it at all.” We are a way away from that, but that is the inevitable consequence of the situation we are in. 

Q119 Kate Green: Are you sliding towards that? 

Yvonne Thomas: It is very difficult to say. This is not going to happen next week, next month or in three months. 

Q120 Kate Green: If the MOJ manages to renegotiate to your satisfaction to halt that trend, how quickly will that negotiation need to be complete for you to be able to make this viable? 

Yvonne Thomas: We would like to think that enough ground has been covered between the MOJ and the various providers to start getting something sensible in place during April or May. 

Q121 Chair: Were staffing reductions factored into your original bids? 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. We took out quite a considerable number of management and administrative staff. We all have different views on, and different models for, front-line staff. We took about 160 people out of the original 2,000, but they were management and admin. 

Q122 Chair: That is the level that you had anticipated. It has not been more or less than you had anticipated. 

Yvonne Thomas: We have not taken out the level that we had anticipated. We just cannot at the moment, due to a combination of the lack of technology that was talked about earlier, which is quite a barrier, and the fact that the case loads are rising. 

Q123 Chair: What about your company’s operations, Mr Gansheimer? 

Rich Gansheimer: It is very similar. We have not been able to see the reductions through fully. We have one contract that is struggling with some of the basics. We have had to go back to the basics, to retrain and to do things of that kind. That has certainly not been reduced to where we would expect it to be. That is where some of the investment goes. We have another contract that we have been able to work to those numbers. We are doing pretty well in that area. 

Q124 Richard Arkless: Clearly, you have issues with the payment mechanism, which is causing you some alarm. Some of the things that you have been saying are quite alarming to us. On that basis, you will welcome the new review of TR. One of the things that you will hope it will assess is the payment mechanisms and how they work for you. However, what we are interested in is transforming rehabilitation for offenders. Clearly, you have financial concerns. Beyond that, in relation to the meat of the issue, which is transforming people’s lives, what would you like to see the review include or exclude? What action would you like to see come out of the review specifically in relation to transforming rehabilitation? 

Rich Gansheimer: I will allow Yvonne to answer for her company. For us, it is about the outcome and performance-based measures. As was mentioned previously, right now the service-level measures are a tick box; in other words, you are working to a specific service-level measure, so that you do not incur service credits. We want to be measured on the outcome—what we produce. Ultimately, what we have committed to is reduced reoffending. We want to be judged on what happens from the beginning to the end of the system, not on all the stuff that happens in the middle, where we incur high service credits if something does not go in exactly the way in which it should have gone, according to that service level. We want to be based and reviewed on the outcomes. That goes along with what Dame Glenys said earlier. 

Q125 Richard Arkless: How are those outcomes? If you were assessed just now, would they be positive? 

Rich Gansheimer: Obviously, we are measuring that right now. One of the payment mechanisms is payment by results. We have to have sight of that and are measuring it. We are using our data to measure where we think we are on that. It is still pretty early, because the final outcomes will come later in the year. We always put a caveat around our data on reducing reoffending, but we see good signs of it. 

Yvonne Thomas: What we are hoping for out of the review, apart from discussions about the sustainability of the service, which is central, is that the through-the-gate proposals will embrace the empowered governor and local need. We want this service to become more local and to represent its communities. We want to be incentivised to build on the innovation and some of the early results that we are seeing, particularly in respect of services to young men under 25, women and black and minority ethnic communities, supporting those with the most complex needs. We would welcome further and higher bars on those things, although we think that we are already achieving some of them. On the issue of what we want to be measured for, as I said to Mr Hanson earlier, this service does not work either as a service or commercially unless you reduce reoffending. We have now had the first six months of data from the Ministry of Justice. If we look at our own five, by the end of this year, 2,000 people who would have offended will not offend, if the current trends continue. The service is beginning to work. It needs to be given a chance and a little more support, for the sake of our staff, who are out there doing a difficult job. That is all that we want—to reduce reoffending. 

Q126 Chair: How do you square this reduction in bureaucracy with the aspiration of the chief inspector that there should be greater specification of standards? 

Yvonne Thomas: One hundred and two probation instructions are quite a lot. Maybe the existing standards could be better orientated. There could certainly be fewer of them that were more appropriate and more strictly enforced. 

Q127 Chair: Is that something that you want to have covered in the review? 

Yvonne Thomas: That would be helpful as an ongoing piece of work between the NPS, the CRCs and the inspectorate. 

Q128 Chair: It has been suggested, of course, that the way in which the payment structure works is an incentive for you not to report breach. Is that a fair observation? 

Rich Gansheimer: I do not think that that is something we have ever talked about. Clearly, we want to ensure the integrity of the system. We want to make sure that we do not automatically breach or recall and that we have worked with service users and offenders to make sure that we have maximised everything we can, to ensure that they have no arguments. 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes—not in front of me. [Interruption.] 

Chair: The House is just sitting; that is what the bell is for. It is a good time to conclude our evidence session. Thank you both for your time.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Tribunal Fees

Whilst waiting for the next twist in the TR omnishambles, this could be another bad news day for the government:-

Tribunal fees "a clear violation" of UK & EU law, says Oxford University report

Oxford University experts in economics, Associate Professor Abi Adams, and the law, Associate Professor Jeremias Prassl, have described the Coalition government's introduction of employment tribunal fees as "a clear violation" of UK and EU law.

In an article to be published in the Modern Law Review journal on Monday March 27 2017, the academics describe the policy as "disproportionate" and claim it illegally denies workers access to justice. 

In an analysis of government data, the experts discovered that for up to half of all claimants with a good chance of succeeding at tribunal, the expense of bringing their case outweighs the level of the expected payout, meaning the worker would lose money by taking unscrupulous employers to task.

Dr Adams explained: "The average award for some employment claims, such as unauthorised deduction from wages, is as low as £600. With fees ranging from £390 to £1,200, it does not make economic sense for many claimants to enforce their rights."

What's more, the academics found that tribunal fees may be having the opposite impact of the government's reported aims: to lower the cost to the taxpayer of the tribunal system, to encourage early settlement of cases, and to deter vexatious claims.

Instead, the few claimants who are bringing vexatious claims were found to be the least likely to be deterred by the fees, while employers are disincentivised from making a settlement because they know there is a high chance that workers will simply give in rather than pay the cost of taking their case to court.

The number of claims going to tribunal dropped by 70% within the first year of the fees being introduced, and the cases hardest hit have been those involving low-income, zero-hours workers, who are often expecting lower payouts that will not cover their costs, the report suggests.

Dr Prassl said: "The Employment Tribunal fees are a clear denial of access to the courts, which has been a cornerstone of our justice system since Magna Carta. The conclusions of the Prime Minister’s Taylor Review into Employment Rights will be meaningless without a credible way for workers to seek justice."

The Institute of Employment Rights agrees that without the ability to enforce their rights at tribunal, workers can not simply be "empowered" to speak up against unscrupulous employers, as Taylor's preliminary recommendations - which largely revolve around increasing workers' awareness of their rights - seem to suggest.

However, we would add that it is not enough to simply remove tribunal fees, as the current system of placing the onus on workers to police their own rights falls short of effective enforcement. Individual workers have significantly less power, and access to significantly fewer legal resources, than their employers. We argue that the promotion of collective bargaining at both sectoral and enterprise levels is necessary to allow workers to negotiate for fair pay and conditions, as organising in trade unions is the best way to equalise the imbalance of power between employers and their staff. We also argue that an independent Labour Inspectorate should be established to ensure employers are following both the law and any collective agreements relevant to them.

Read more about the proposals in our Manifesto for Labour Law - 25 recommendations, the principles of which have been adopted by the Labour Party.

The conclusions of the Modern Law Review report support Unison's ongoing battle against the implementation of employment tribunal fees, which will be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday March 27 2017. Referring to the union's judicial review, Dr Prassl said: "The lower courts’ approach was inappropriately narrow in its interpretation of English and European law: a right without a remedy is of little value".

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Latest From Napo 141

Highlights from the latest blog post by Napo General Secretary:-


Next week sees the second session of the Justice Select Committee hearings into Transforming Rehabilitation. Napo will be among those who have been invited as Witnesses to provide oral evidence.

It’s one of several important opportunities that have come my way at various stages of my work with Napo and other unions before it, and this one follows on from that of last Tuesday where HM Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey gave a full and frank account of her views about what has happened, what is still going wrong and what might be done to improve the situation.

This Tuesday the Committee will hear from the Probation Institute, Napo and Unison and representatives from two of the Community Rehabilitation Companies.

You can see what was said last week’s gathering and follow proceedings live or afterwards, on Parliament TV.

Earlier this week I addressed a seminar held by the Westminster Legal Policy Forum on the possibilities for Devolving Criminal Justice Services so that a greater responsibility for delivery might fall within the remit of Metropolitan Mayors or Police and Crime Commissioners.

True to form, some of what I had to say about the impact of the TR programme did not go down especially well with some CRC chiefs who were in attendance; but as I said to a number of them afterwards I have a duty to our members to reflect the facts which, in short include the following:

  • CRC performance (with a few exceptions) is well below what it ought to be
  • Through the Gate has been an abject failure
  • Many CRCs have gone running back to the Ministry of Justice crying foul over funding, the contract parameters and the fundamentally flawed Payment by Results mechanism.
  • Many staff have been treated abysmally by their new employers
  • Workloads have gone into meltdown
  • Professional standards are seriously slipping
  • Some Operational Models are well short of what is needed to ensure standards of service and protect the public
Solutions needed quickly

I also made it clear that Napo members (much as they would love it to happen) are realists, and don’t expect some miraculous ‘Damascene’ moment where Ministers suddenly decide that they are going to patch Probation back up again as once was.

But there are serious issues around accountability, competence and the way in which staff have been (and are being) treated, that also need to be addressed otherwise a devolved service to whoever is considered capable of taking more control of it locally in the future will simply be a waste of time.

That’s as honest an assessment as I can manage right now and the spotlight will be on others next week as well to come clean about where they are in life. It might be helpful if some CRC owners as well as the NPS bosses who told everyone it would be OK, fessed up and admitted that this whole TR thing was bigger than they thought and that they have miscalculated the enormity of it all. Whether they welcome it or not, it’s my view as well that not everything that has failed to work is necessarily their fault, but some have not helped themselves with perilous forecasts and strategies around staffing and service delivery that have left many of our members who remain in the NPS and CRCs in pieces. If senior management wherever they are from, are truly committed to making a fresh start in their relationship with the unions to find workable solutions than Napo will be there willing to engage.

Working Links in the spotlight again

It’s comforting to see that the recent media activity from Channel 4 and BBC Wales Radio into the Aurelius/Working Links CRC operation has been followed up by BBC South West last week.

I want to personally thank our former Napo activist Helen Coley and serving staff (anonymously for obvious reasons) for setting out the problems of an unrealistic operational model in stark fashion, and there won’t be anyone watching the programme who won’t have shared the sense of despair of the families of the two victims of the SFO’s that were featured.

One of these dreadful events happened prior to TR, and one afterwards; raising questions about the disrupted operational environment that existed prior to share sale and that during transition which shows little sign of major improvement according to our members.

To set the record straight, Napo’s part in this production was a legitimate attempt to illustrate the difficulties that have been among those that have given rise to a long running dispute between the unions and employers. The issues of responsibility and accountability, especially given the huge amounts of taxpayers money involved, are ones that ought to see the light of day and if Working Links think they have been hard done by then they should take it up with the BBC who many observers felt gave a very balanced view of the situation.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

More On Titan Prisons

"Final decisions on the new prisons will be subject to planning approvals, as well as value for money and affordability."

Liz Truss, Ministerial Statement 22 March 2017

Here we have the view of the Howard League on the plans for Titan jails:-

The Howard League for Penal Reform has today (Wednesday 22 March) responded to the government’s plans to build four new prisons. Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The government is pinning a great deal of hope that its capital investment in new prisons will help to solve the current crisis behind bars, with very little evidence to support that contention. Prisons across the country are afflicted with problems of deaths, violence and drugs – modern and old alike.

“The real driver behind these new prisons will be cost. Today’s announcement confirms that the Ministry of Justice is still committed to building larger prisons which can make economies of scale, even though smaller institutions can be safer and more stable.

“Ultimately we will only transform the prison system if we do something about a prison population which has doubled in the last twenty years. Until politicians grasp the nettle that we simply jail too many people and for too long, then governments will continue to preside over prisons that shame the nation.”


Of course the whole subject of building Titan prisons has been looked at before. This from the Prison Reform Trust in 2008:-

Titan Prisons: a Gigantic Mistake

Building US style huge Titan prisons will do little, or nothing, to cut crime and instead destabilise the criminal justice system for years to come by bringing about future overcrowding crises and higher reoffending rates. In a report published today at the end of the public consultation period on Titan prisons, the Prison Reform Trust reveals that the government has no proper evidence or adequate funding for its desperate plan to build giant prisons. It points out that it is not too late to avoid a costly and damaging mistake by investing in more effective measures instead.

The report, ‘Titan prisons: a gigantic mistake’ publishes a new analysis based on data from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, comparing small and large prisons against 154 different factors used to assess safe and effective prisons.
  • In two-thirds of the factors compared (102/154), smaller prisons scored significantly better than large ones;
  • In 38 of the 102 areas, the disparity exceeded ten percentage points;
  • For 19 of the 24 factors concerning safety, small prisons scored significantly better. For example, 38 per cent of prisoners in large prisons said it was easy to obtain illegal drugs, compared to 26 per cent of prisoners in smaller prisons;
  • For resettlement, small prisons were better for 18 out of 28 compared and were worse for only one.
Plans for three Titan prisons, each holding 2,500 prisoners and with the first opening in 2012, were proposed by Lord Carter’s review of prisons and accepted by ministers in December 2007. A Ministry of Justice consultation on how Titan prisons might work was launched in June and closes today.

The report also warns the government is repeating past mistakes by prioritising prison building over tackling the underlying reasons for the rising prison population. A report published last month by the influential cross party House of Commons Justice select committee found the prisons crisis to be a direct result of the Government failing to follow its twin track strategy of reserving prison for serious and violent offenders and using community orders, rather than ineffective short prison sentences, for minor offenders.

The cost of Titan prisons is also highlighted in the report as an area of concern. Initial government statements indicated the cost of the entire prison building programme would be £1.2 billion before ministers clarified the cost would be almost double that at £2.3 billion. This excludes all associated and running costs.

The report reveals that the estimate for the construction costs of Titan prisons has already increased by 30 per cent from £350m to £450m each.

The report is heavily critical of the approach taken by Lord Carter and expresses concern that his review’s call for Titan prisons runs counter to expert advice and may have been predetermined at the outset. The report reveals that only 17 of the 51 organisations, agencies and individuals Lord Carter met during his review inquiry were consulted on Titans. Of these 9 were private companies – construction firms and private prison operators with a clear vested interest in a prison building programme. Six were government departments.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, accused the government of acting recklessly in an economic downturn and said:

“The government is on the verge of making a massive, costly and hugely damaging mistake that will destabilise the criminal justice system for years to come. Giant US-style prisons may be easier to build but all the evidence here and abroad says the price we would pay in running them, and in higher reoffending rates, is far too high.

“If ministers want prisons to be focused on rehabilitation, rather than warehousing offenders until they are released, then it is not too late to make these plans disappear as fast as they appeared. Ministers should look at the evidence and listen to the people who run and regulate our prisons.

“The way out of this hole is not to carrying on digging by building super-sized titan prisons in a futile attempt to catch up with rising prison numbers. Instead the billions earmarked for Titans and the massive prison building programme should be used far more effectively to resource sentencing options which would see addicts getting treatment, the mentally ill gaining access to healthcare and petty offenders doing enforced community work to pay back for the harm they have caused.”

The report sets out a range of policy measures ministers should implement immediately to relieve the pressure on places. These include:
  • a national network of police and court schemes diverting many people with mental health needs or learning disabilities away from the criminal justice system into health and social care;
  • the full and immediate implementation of the Corston review to end the unnecessary imprisonment of women for minor offences;
  • adequate funding for community orders so that the courts have confidence in their availability and effectiveness;
  • better treatment for offenders with drink or drug addictions;
  • the establishment of a Sentencing Commission based on the existing Sentencing Guidelines Council to end ‘sentence inflation’ and help call a halt to the politicisation of sentencing.

And from a House of Commons briefing paper Feb 2016:

"A consultation paper, Titan Prisons, was published in June 2008. The summary of responses was published by the MoJ in April 2009. With it came the announcement that there would be no Titan prisons. The stated reasons overlapped with the potential difficulties identified by Lord Carter, the Prison Reform Trust and others:

We have (...) come to the conclusion that the additional risk, novelty and complexity involved in building 2,500 place prisons is likely to increase the cost. In addition we believe they are unlikely to provide the correct environment in which to rehabilitate offenders.

It has, though, been suggested by some commentators that the MoJ’s volte face was in fact attributable to the recession and concerns about the difficulties in obtaining planning consents in the face of what was likely to be strong local opposition. In announcing (with some apparent reluctance) the demise of Titan prisons, Jack Straw said that the Government intended instead to build five prisons of up to 1,500 places"

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Future Is Titan After All

This by Alan Travis in the Guardian:- 

Four 'supersized' prisons to be built in England and Wales

Justice secretary announces plan to create 5,000 prison places in east Yorkshire, Wigan, Rochester and Port Talbot

The justice secretary is to announce plans to build four new “supersized” jails in England and Wales, creating a total of 5,000 modern prison places. Sites at Full Sutton in east Yorkshire, Hindley in Wigan, Rochester in Kent and Port Talbot in south Wales have been earmarked for development as part of the government’s £1.3bn programme to transform the prison estate.

Although the individual capacities of the new jails will not be decided until they go through the planning process it is expected each will have a capacity of more than 1,000 inmates, consolidating a new generation of “supersized” prisons.

The justice secretary, Liz Truss, said: “We cannot hope to reduce reoffending until we build prisons that are places of reform where hard work and self-improvement flourish. “Outdated prisons, with dark corridors and cramped conditions, will not help offenders turn their back on crime – nor do they provide our professional and dedicated prison officers with the right tools or environment to do their job effectively.”

But the plans dismayed penal reformers who said the new building programme was not being matched by a plan to reduce the use of prison in the first place. The prison population has stabilised at about 85,000 over the last five years in a system with an “operational capacity” of just a thousand more.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the “massive investment in new prisons is not matched by a credible plan to reduce our reckless overuse of prison in the first place”. He added: “The prison estate certainly needs an overhaul, but reducing demand would mean closing prisons, not opening them. The government has admitted that it has no idea when overcrowding will cease, and this announcement takes us no closer to an answer to that crucial question.”

The four new prisons are part of a wider building programme to create up to 10,000 modern prison places by 2020. A total of nine new prisons are to be built, five by the next general election. Sites in Yorkshire, Wigan, Kent and South Wales have been earmarked as part of a commitment to build up to 10,000 prison places by 2020

HMP Berwyn near Wrexham, which opened last month, is expected to become one of the largest prisons in Europe, holding more than 2,100 inmates when it is full to capacity. Most of the prisons built over the last 30 years had an original capacity of about 600, so Wednesday’s announcement marks a change of scale in British penal architecture.

Announcements are also expected later this year on the closure of old Victorian inner-city jails as part of the government’s “new for old” policies. HMP Holloway women’s prison, which shut last summer, is the latest to close under the “new for old” policy.

The expansion in the size of prisons has happened on a piecemeal basis, with Wandsworth prison in south London, for example, now holding 1,560 inmates in a jail supposed to hold fewer than 1,000. Nearly 30 prisons now hold more than 1,000 inmates each.

Ministry of Justice officials say the final decisions on the new prisons will be subject to planning approvals as well as considerations of value for money and affordability. It will be open to the public prison service to bid to run the new prisons alongside private prison operators. They also stressed that the new jails would create 2,000 jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries and provide a boost to regional economies across the country.

Truss said: “This significant building programme will not only help create a modern prison estate where wholescale reform can truly take root, but will also provide a thriving, economic lifeline for the local community – creating hundreds of jobs for local people and maximising opportunities for businesses.”

Council of Europe figures showed last week that England and Wales has the highest incarceration rate in western Europe. Although the prison population is within “operational capacity” it is far above its “certified normal accommodation” – the official measure of “good, decent” accommodation. Nearly 21,000 prisoners – a quarter of the prison population – are held “doubled up” in cells designed for one.

The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, said: “We need modern prisons fit for the modern age. But simply replacing one prison with another prison doesn’t deal with the overcrowding crisis. No amount of press releases can distract from that.”

Lord Woolf in his landmark 1990 report following the Strangeways prison riots recommended that prisons should not normally hold more than 400 prisoners. He said: “The evidence suggests that if these figures are exceeded, there can be a marked fall-off in all aspects of the performance of a prison.” The last Labour government proposed a series of 2,500-place Titan prisons but dropped the scheme in the face of cross-party opposition.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Select Committee Special

"The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were a significant first step towards a more effective probation system." Sam Gyimah

Revisionist Liar. (comment yesterday)


What an extraordinary session of the Justice Select Committee! I urge people to spend a bit of time watching and listening to the video, until such time as the transcript is available. 

Although using mealy-mouthed words at various stages, witness after witness had no alternative but to confirm what an utter bloody disaster the whole TR omnishambles has turned into - but how long is it going to take Bob Neill and his lack-lustre committee to have the courage to state the blindingly-obvious?  


"As the Public Accounts Committee noted in its report on Transforming Rehabilitation, a key factor in the performance of the probation system has been the volume reductions which have had an impact on CRC revenue and their ability to transform their businesses. We are discussing with providers the steps we can take to provide them with greater certainty over their future income and to enable long-term planning and transformation of services. This element of the review includes examination of potential changes to the CRC contracts’ payment mechanism. We are currently discussing proposals with CRCs but are confident that we can bring greater financial stability to providers and provide a stronger foundation for improving system performance."

Should read:

"TR has been the shambolic f*ckup anticipated by the PAC but as you know we carried on regardless. Now the CRCs are underperforming - for all of the reasons predicted so widely by so many - it highlights what an utter clusterfuck we find ourselves in, so once again we're going to try to buy our way out by handing out even more public money to the private sector."

I shall be writing to the PAC myself today to this effect:

"Dear PAC - these thieving, lying bastards have already stolen £Millions of public funds, they've ruined hundreds of professionals' careers & blighted communities with their ideological vandalism by dismantling the pre-existing professional probation service. Please don't listen to anymore of their pathetic lies and make them accountable for the damage they have caused. Thank you."

"providers will be robustly held to account."

No they won't. This hasn't happened yet, nor will it happen. The providers have MoJ tightly by the balls and simply squeeze whenever they want something. The NOMS contract police are invisible nobody's who have not once intervened; they have stood silently to attention, impotent whilst CRCs have decimated staff & services. The nigh-on £100M contribution from the Modernisation Fund - not a peep from the contract managers when that money wasn't used as intended, then suddenly it became free money for the CRCs to pocket. "Robust contract management" or craven capitulation?

Mr Bob Neill MP
Justice Select Committee


Please accept my apologies in advance for an uninvited approach.

I wanted to write to you in your capacity as Chair of the Justice Select Committee to briefly express my dismay & concern at the ongoing & costly shambles that is the so-called Transforming Rehabilitation programme. I am aware you are considering evidence tomorrow (Tues 21 Mar) and I have recently had sight of Mr Gyimah's letter (dated 7 Mar 2017) expressing a wish to, in effect, amend the contracts with & increase funding for the CRCs.

After some 25 years of being employed by the Probation Service I was, as an experienced & qualified Probation Officer, unceremoniously (& without choice) transferred to a CRC in 2014 with wild promises of opportunity & riches. In July 2015 I was served notice of redundancy and by September 2015 I was unemployed - as were many others of long & valued service. The CRCs chose not to implement the widely advertised redundancy package agreed between the unions & NOMS in 2014 despite the CRCs having been gifted a share (allegedly some £80M) of public money from the Cabinet's 'Modernisation Fund' to pay off staff. The CRCs were later told they could keep the £80M and use it howsoever they chose.

You will be aware that the PAC made numerous unsuccessful attempts to get the MoJ & NOMS to provide concrete details of the TR programme; the majority of excuses used being linked to the notion of "commercial sensitivity". They have spent unaccountable £Millions trying to implement this lamentable privatisation.

Mr Gyimah writes:

"The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were a significant first step towards a more effective probation system."

The spiralling costs of this experiment have been vast both in financial and human terms. In 2017 I would estimate there have been some 600+ professionals lost to the probation service - either through CRC reductions in staffing or people simply leaving. After two years the impact upon service provision HAS been significant but NOT effective in any positive sense; and certainly those reforms do not represent any improvement upon the gold standard organisation that was the Probation Service, and which it is clearly the MoJ's unfathomable yet unshakeable ambition to replace at any cost.

I find it astonishing, grotesque & deeply offensive that there could be any consideration of throwing further £Millions of public funds at the bank accounts of global enterprise - to achieve what? How is that going to realise "a more effective probation system."?

Mr Neill, thank you for taking the time to read my email.

Yours Sincerely

An ex-Probation Officer who must remain anonymous for contractual reasons imposed in lieu of redundancy.


Stop Press

This from Alan Travis in the Guardian:-

Private companies could pull out of probation contracts over costs

Interserve Justice and MTCnovo tell MPs they may consider quitting if Ministry of Justice review does not deliver changes

Two of the private companies that provide 50% of probation services in England and Wales have confirmed to MPs they will have to consider quitting if a Ministry of Justice review fails to deliver improvements.

Interserve Justice and MTCnovo, which have contracts worth more than £150m a year to run “community rehabilitation companies”, have told the Commons justice select committee that their finances are unsustainable. “Our work is going up, our payment is going down,” said Yvonne Thomas, director of justice at Interserve.

The warning that pulling out of their probation contracts “will be an option on the table that will have to be considered” was delivered after the chief inspector of probation told MPs that probation privatisation had proved “enormously difficult” since it was introduced in 2014.

The transforming rehabilitation programme was introduced by Chris Grayling when he was justice secretary. It involves 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) taking over the supervision of 140,000 “medium- to low-risk” offenders each year while the publicly run National Probation Service (NPS) continues to supervise high-risk offenders.

The chief inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey, said the probation system was in a very “unsettling position”. The number of offenders under probation supervision was 30% fewer than anticipated and payment was largely linked to the number of offenders “through the door”, which had led to substantial financial challenges, she said.

“They are running with ever fewer professional staff and are taking other steps to reduce expenditure wherever possible. They are pared back and focused on what is measured and rewarded and seeking to avoid stinging penalties for non-delivery against their targets,” said Stacy.

“The financial model, the financial underpinnings for these organisations, is not sufficiently stable and it is substantially inhibiting these CRCs as they seek to develop and implement new operating models,” she said, adding that promised innovations had yet to become apparent.

She said the programme had proved “a very significant cultural challenge” for probation: “This wholesale move to fragment the service and give it a commercial edge has been enormously difficult … No one in my position would feel comfortable at the moment with the way the service is performing.”

The chief inspector said CRC staff were overwhelmed by workloads while attempts to implement “half-baked” new operating models had stalled. This contrasted with the “acceptable” performance of the NPS with high-risk offenders “safe in the arms of the state”.

Nicky Park, head of prison services at the St Giles Trust, which has pioneered “through the gate” resettlement programmes for released prisoners, said it had been reduced to a “barebones service”, which had become an “admin heavy” tick-box exercise and no longer delivered quality interventions.

The MoJ is due to complete a review of the £889m-a-year probation service, which supervises 200,000 offenders a year.

The two private justice companies giving evidence to the select committee made clear they were pinning their hopes on ministers “fixing” the payment mechanism for the programme so the financial situation was put on a stable footing.

Both said they hoped something sensible would come out of the MoJ review, but agreed with the suggestion from MPs that they would have to discuss withdrawal from the contracts if it failed to deliver. However, Thomas added: “Nobody is talking about walking at this stage.”