George or is it Geoffrey Osborne irritates me at the best of times, but on Tuesday at the end of his speech announcing further government spending cuts, he excelled himself by dismissing all those resisting reforms as merely "vested interests". That's quite rich coming as it does from a representative of a group who vote on their own terms and conditions.
But aren't these 'vested interests' the very same skilled and professional staff required to make sure that 'Transforming Rehabilitation' actually has any chance of working? The leaked MoJ Risk Register highlighted that one of the biggest risks the whole daft idea faced was a disillusioned and unco-operative workforce that now has to contemplate the loss of annual salary increments. These may be denigrated by the Chancellor, but how does he think key experienced staff can be retained on the front line without some recognition of their expertise?
During the speech I was pleased when the camera caught a glimpse of a very glum-looking Chris Grayling, no doubt contemplating the success he's had in thoroughly stirring up the 'vested interests' throughout the entire criminal justice system. The fruits of his endeavours are beginning to show with a spirited Commons debate on the legal aid reforms yesterday and an emergency session of the Justice Affairs Select Committee scheduled for next Tuesday. I notice Ian Lawrence the new Napo General Secretary is among those called to give evidence.
Just as an aside, it's interesting to note that one Chris Grayling voted against the Labour government's 2007 Offender Management Bill at its third reading - the very legislation he is now using to dismantle the Probation Service. There's absolutely no principle or honour in much of politics and it should serve to confirm that winning the argument is all that matters, by what ever lawful means it takes.
It looks like the right wing press are beginning to get to grips with the likely consequences of 'Transforming Rehabilitation' as revealed in the official impact assessments - an extra 13,000 people going to prison each year. As quoted in the Daily Telegraph article, the minister Jeremy Wright commented:-
"We expect a short-term rise in the population as a result of these tougher and longer restrictions on offenders and we have enough prison places to effectively deal with this for the longer term goal of cutting re-offending."
These plans are supposed to save money of course, and reduce reoffending, but it's interesting to note that only yesterday the Treasury First Secretary Danny Alexander announced a new £100 million super-prison for 2,000 inmates to be built in Wrexham North Wales as part of the economic stimulation package for the UK economy. Apparently they are 'delighted' in Wales to have secured this investment, in stiff competition with North West England :-
"Going back to when I was leader of Wrexham Council, I have argued that there is a strong case for a new prison to be located in North Wales. Such a facility will certainly bring considerable economic benefits to our region and could lead to the creation of over a thousand jobs. This investment will provide a significant economic boost in our region.
When I spoke to the Ministry of Justice and Danny Alexander, it was clear that they were impressed by the business case put forward in favour of North Wales. I, alongside my Welsh Liberal Democrat colleagues, have been working tirelessly with Liberal Democrat Ministers in London to ensure a prison in North Wales would become a reality. Many across North Wales, including the six local authorities, have worked together on this bid and it shows what can be done when we work as a team."
Well that's certainly a ringing endorsement for more prisons! Lots of vested interest in keeping them filled by the sound of it too. I think I need a lie down.
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