I notice Russell Webster has invoked some war rhetoric to describe the current chaotic state of probation. He reckons the 'phoney war' will probably end about mid-May when the Ministry of Justice eventually announces the planned shape of the Service.
Having his ear obviously close to the ground, we learn from MoJ rumours that the contract packages are likely to be bigger than first thought, thus confirming the success big boys like G4S have had in their lobbying. They obviously want to maximise the economies of scale that size will bring and hence opportunities for profit, whilst at the same time ensuring the small fry don't get a look-in as prime contractors.
Talking of small fry, we learn that there are seven Trusts, or groupings of Trusts, who are intending to try and 'mutualise' in order to bid for the work. Interestingly, it pits Cabinet Office against MoJ who basically detest the idea! Of course Trusts who do not try and go down this route are prevented from bidding. According to Russell Webster:-
For anyone that doesn’t know, the seven areas are: Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside; Dorset and Devon & Cornwall; the East Midlands REACH service (run by Leicestershire & Rutland probation); Essex; Kent and Surrey & Sussex; the London Probation resettlement services known as RISE; and Warwickshire/West Mercia.
It's a sad indictment indeed when we have to resort to private blogsites in order to discover what's going on, rather than the Probation Chief's Association, Probation Association or NAPO even, but there we are. As Russell reminds us, there's a lot of frenetic speed-dating going on as everyone sizes each other up as potential partners. As with all dating I suppose, a mostly clumsy and inelegant process, fraught with possible embarrassment and rejection, so best to say little.
It's no good looking to NAPO either for information during this 'phoney war.' As far as I can see, they haven't even told the memberhip that Harry Fletcher will shortly be departing and there is understandable evidence of disquiet in the ranks at the woeful speed of updates on the website. One forum commentator reminds us of the recent words by Sir Michael Wilshore the new Chief Inspector of Schools who, upon taking up his post said, "If anyone says to you staff morale is at an all-time low, you know you are doing something right."
This is clear confirmation, if any were needed, that government policy involves pissing-off as many public servants as possible. Probation are merely the latest group and join teachers, nurses and of course the police who are still getting over the indignity of having the dreadful Tom Winsor lord it over them as HM Chief Inspector.
Sign the No10 petition here.