So, Friday the thirteenth was the date chosen to announce to the world the largest ever privatisation of probation services in England and Wales. The contract to provide the whole of Community Payback in London for four years from October has been awarded to a partnership between Serco and the London Probation Trust, having seen off cheeky Essex in partnership with Sodexo and Mitie with disgraced A4E. Thoroughly disgraced G4S didn't bid for this contract, but the Ministry of Justice has apparently confirmed that 60% of the total probation budget will be up for grabs by the autumn, so there's plenty of time for them to get on board yet.
Seeing as LPT is part of the winning bid, they really had no alternative but to welcome the news and sound all excited about the prospects of saving money, oh and delivering much better services of course. But the warm congratulations from the Probation Association and Probation Chiefs Association must be seen as a bit of last ditch sycophancy to try and get the government to change it's mind, or at least pretend they have at least bothered to read the submissions from the recent consultation exercise. The rumours I've heard say they haven't taken a blind bit of notice and intend to carry on preventing Probation Trusts from being both commissioners and providers of services.
Just for the record, and so I can join the likes of HM Chief Inspector of Probation in being able to say 'we told you so', if the government persists in farming out the supervision of low and medium risk offenders, it will all go wrong because 80% of Serious Further Offences are committed by clients in these groups.
So, all you private companies that have regard for your public image, give it a bit of thought as you burn the midnight oil cooking-up those clever bids for all those lucrative probation contracts - headlines like 'man murdered while on supervision to G4S' or possibly 'serial rapist was on licence to Sodexo' or even 'wife killed when supervised by Mitie'. You get the gist.