Strictly speaking I suppose I've been straying a bit more than usual from my probation remit, but I don't feel like apologising. The government have signalled their intention of speeding up the privatisation of core probation tasks and it annoys me greatly.
In view of this, I think it's only fair to examine what the track record looks like where the private sector have already taken over. Are there really cost savings and greater efficiencies to be had, or is it just plain political ideology and dogma, coupled of course with opportunities for some people to get rich?
Somehow I feel in need of a bit of a roundup, just to serve as a reminder. From memory and my own sphere, there was the Mitie fiasco over their contract to supply maintenance and cleaning services to the probation estate. Then there was the well publicised case of the poorly-performing national contract for translation services to HM Courts and Tribunal Service.
The contracts for prisoner escort haven't exactly run entirely smoothly and there is scant evidence of private contractors being able to run prisons either more cheaply or better than HM Prison Service. On top of all this, there has been recent widespread criticism of the cosy cartel of two electronic tagging contractors G4S and Serco as their contracts come up for renewal. I'm sure there must be other examples, but I did say this was from memory.
Looking at other areas, I'm reminded of the recent knowledge that surfaced from a Freedom of Information request I believe about the Train Operating Companies. Apparently they are on to a nice little earner whereby they pocket tens of millions of pounds from state-owned Network Rail, paid out in respect of train delays, but the vast majority of which is not passed on to passengers.
On the same theme, it's emerged from a BBC Radio 5 live investigation that motorists are beginning to get bills from private contractors in respect of alleged damage to motorways. Sometimes amounting to many thousands of pounds, it seems that when challenged for evidence, these bills either miraculously disappear, or are drastically reduced. According to the programme, the reason this is happening is as a result of a much 'leaner' contract process.
What beats me is, why did anyone think you can get more for less under privatisation without it having an effect somewhere?