Friday, 8 March 2013

Privatisation Roundup

The right-wing thank tank Policy Exchange held a conference recently on Payment by Results and how the Probation Service was to be privatised. Attended by all the usual suspects and addressed by both Chris Grayling and Jeremy Wright, news has been filtering out ever since. 

It would seem that Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee is beginning to rattle Chris Grayling because he had quite a go at her according to this report in the Guardian:-

At a Policy Exchange conference in London on Monday, Grayling renewed his attack on Hodge, claiming she was playing politics by attacking payment by results whenever she could.
"She's wasted no time in bashing and misrepresenting the credentials of work programme. But the reality is that under the last government she served as employment minister, and millions and millions of taxpayers' money was handed to private companies without any significant measure of success or transparency," he said.
"It's madness for her to now claim that payment by results – a clear mechanism whereby providers put their own money at risk before they can demonstrate an agreed measure of success – delivers a worse performance than the black hole Labour presided over before."
Apparently it's quite unusual for Ministers to be so critical of Select Committee chairs and I'd say it's a sure sign of them actually doing a thorough job of holding the Executive to account. I notice she was in fine form only yesterday making life very uncomfortable for the Charity Commission bosses for their mishandling of the Cup Trust tax avoidance 'charity.'
It seems as if the government have back-tracked a bit on there vision of every released prisoner being met at the prison gate by a volunteer peer mentor. According to this Daily Telegraph piece, Jeremy Wright is now saying that in all probability mentors will be paid:-
Mr Wright said many offenders already mentor others in custody, either to help them settle in, as reading coaches, or in other areas of education and training, and this work should continue through the prison gate.
There must surely be potential for us to say to those offenders, ‘Look, wouldn’t you like to consider this as a career so that when you come out you will have the opportunity not just to do mentoring, but to be paid for it?’” he said.
"I think that would be attractive to a large number of former offenders.”
That's much more realistic, but clearly going to put the costs up considerably. 
There's clearly a difference of opinion between the big contracting boys like G4S and the government. According to Russell Webster's report on the day and in relation to risk, G4S just want the whole of probation handing over, but Ministers don't agree according to the Daily Telegraph report:- 
Mr Wright insisted public safety was paramount and said the public sector probation service would retain responsibility for high risk offenders, with private firms and charities being brought in to manage those assessed as low and medium risk.
“We believe that a professional public sector service is best placed to manage those who present highest risk of serious harm, just as we believe they are best placed to make judgments about who falls into which risk category, both at the outset and an ongoing basis.” 
It can't be bad news to see the likes of G4S and the government disagreeing, so lets hope it continues.
I notice at least two Probation chiefs were present at the Policy Exchange event, Heather Munro of London who of course signed the deal with Serco for the Community Payback contract and Sarah Billiald of Kent who speaks on behalf of the Probation Chief's Association. 
Finally, I see that Lord Ramsbotham has at last 'broken cover' and roundly criticised the government's proposals in the House of Lords. Well done sir!
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