I'm extremely grateful to Russell Webster for his sharing thoughts gleaned from the recent CBI conference on Payment by Results. It should come as no great surprise that the star turn was Justice Minister Chris Grayling, a proselytising advocate of PbR in his privatisation plans for the probation service. Mr Webster picked up on one particular theme from the Minister's speech:-
"Mr Grayling spent a surprising amount of his speech talking about reputation management.
Specifically, he felt that the Work Programme providers (Mr Grayling was the architect of the Work Programme before moving to the MoJ) had managed both their own reputations and those of the Programme itself poorly in the face of media criticism.
He stated that he would expect those bidding for MoJ contracts to demonstrate good reputation management skills."
I have to say that it comes as no great surprise that Grayling is so concerned about potential reputational damage, especially given the dodgy goings on with the likes of A4E and the dogs breakfast G4S made of the recent Olympic security contract and inevitable public outcry.
You will recall the supreme irony of the whole sorry Olympic saga - G4S had to admit that one of their key motives in tendering for the job in the first place was in order to improve their public image - enhance their reputation. I suspect no one was more dismayed at what transpired than Chris Grayling because G4S is clearly regarded as an absolutely key player in his plans for privatising the probation service.
Grayling is a politician, wants to climb the greasy pole and ultimately get elected again, so 'reputation' is very important, more so than deeds I suspect. It's interesting that Mr Webster came away from the conference noting that:-
"Reputation management ability will be a selection criterion for Justice PbR contracts"
What an astonishing admission! So, as the Minister's department turns it's skills towards designing a cunning contractual framework for carving the probation service up, it's not just about who does what and how they get paid, it's actually more about who can be trusted to come up with a good story when it all goes pear-shaped. To look after the reputation of the department you understand, not to cover the Minister's arse.