Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Hold to Account

This post follows on from yesterday's that discussed the fact that individual Trust Boards are being invited to voluntarily agree to variations in the terms of their contracts with the Ministry of Justice/NOMS. According to Joe Kuipers, the Chair of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, one of the variations concerns the notice period required in order to terminate the contract with the MoJ. I'm not 100% sure, but I assume it's 12 months. 

Clearly, so that the omnishambles timetable can be completed before the next General Election, the Ministry of Justice can't afford to give the required period of notice, hence the invitation to each Trust Board to voluntarily accept a reduction in the period of notice required under the terms of their contract. As Joe Kuipers confirms, such a decision must be made by each Board and I assume authority cannot be delegated to the Chair.

I remain utterly astonished that in a mature democracy like ours, during this whole period of turmoil, there has hardly been a peep out of any Trust Board with the notable and honourable exception of Joe Kuipers of ASPT and subsequently, John Steele of Surrey and Sussex PT. 

This is an absolutely key decision for each Trust Board to make and I'm clear they have a duty and responsibility as Independent Boards to consider the best interests of their communities and wider public, as well as their loyal employees. It will be an utter disgrace if individually they capitulate to government demands and merely rubber stamp these contract variations.

In a democracy, the public and employees have a right to know what is being asked of each Trust Board, and be offered the opportunity of voicing an opinion. I thought the key reason for Independent Boards was so that community opinion could be reflected. In my view, in order to demonstrate worthiness of holding public office, each Board member ought to reflect long and hard before taking the extraordinary step of agreeing to the MoJ demand that the contract notice period be reduced. 

In the extraordinary situation we find ourselves in, I feel it is appropriate to publicly call each Trust Board to account. Should people wish to do this either individually or collectively, I have compiled a list of all Chairs of Boards in England and Wales below. I apologise in advance if any of the information is incorrect, but some Trust websites are absolutely crap.      

Avon and Somerset - Joe Kuipers
Bedfordshire - John Ruddick
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - Kevin Ellis
Cheshire - Leslie Robinson
Cumbria - Chris Armstrong
Derbyshire - Gillian Wilmot
Devon and Cornwall - Alan Wooderson
Dorset - Tim Skelton
Durham Tees Valley - Sebert Cox OBE  
Essex - Alan Hubbard
Gloucestershire - Tony FitzSimons
Greater Manchester - Dr Hilary Tucker
Hampshire - Mike Fisher
Hertfordshire - Delbert Sandiford
Humberside - Philip Jackson
Kent - Janardan Sofat
Lancashire - Roy Male CBE 
Leicestershire - Jane Wilson 
Lincolnshire - Chris Cook
London - Caroline Corby
Merseyside - Elizabeth Barnett
Norfolk and Suffolk - Gill Lewis
Nottinghamshire - Christine Goldstraw
Northamptonshire - Tansi Harper
Northumbria - Lesley Bessant
South Yorkshire - Mervyn Thomas
Staffordshire and West Midlands - Dr Alan Harrison
Surrey and Sussex - John Steele
Thames Valley - Malcolm Fearn
Wales - Sue Fox
Warwickshire - Robin Verso
West Mercia - James Kelly
West Yorkshire - Stan Hardy
Wiltshire - Paul Aviss
York and North Yorkshire - Ken Bellamy


  1. can a trust agree to a voulantry variation of contract without first consultation with its employees, and secondly those employees agreement?
    I ask because I really dont know, but it seems that at least before any voluntry agreement is reached, employees should at least be notified of any legal implications such an agreement would mean for them, and given the oppertunity to consult on such issues as employment law etc?

    1. You would think so wouldn't you? But I believe it's all going to be done and dusted quietly - disgraceful!

  2. Omnishambles has made it into the Oxford Diconary. It gets a bit of use on this site, and I dont want to dumb down todays serious debate, but felt it warrented a mention.

    1. Thanks - even Ian Lawrence used it in his latest blog post!

  3. Our Kingdom "Privatised justice and the erosion of democracy in the UK".
    Its an article that relates mostly to the new tagging contracts, but it gives a clear indication of what probation can look forward to with outsourcing.

  4. Surely, the trusts, who have within their employment, legal teams, should be ensuring the employees are at least notified of such a serious change to the contract with the MOJ? Any room for legal argument here, and if trusts roll over, as they appear to be doing, can't NAPO mount a legal challenge? Especially if they were not consulted about this further act of barbarism?

    1. I share the same thinking. Its only a thought but could NAPO not inform the trusts that any voluntary agreements reached without employee consultation first may render them liable to compansation?
      I read the article mentioned above in Our Kingdom and what is obvious is Graylings complete dependencey on having staff transfered over within the time scale to make TR happen. Successful bidders have not a cat in hells chance in recruiting the numbers of staff needed to meet operational requirement.
      I feel this is a very serious chink in Graylings agenda, and maybe its one that NAPO should focus with some urgency.
      If it takes holding individual trusts to count over voluntary , employee excluded agreements then so be it.
      If you cant stop the train, then maybe slow it down enough for its cargo to spoil.

    2. If enough staff REFUSE to work for the CRC's and or NPS after the transfer - presumably the venture will fail.

      I suspect most Probation folk have sufficient transferable skills to get reasonably well paid alternative work and they might also have an excellent case to argue that they were constructively dismissed and so eligible for compensation from UK Governemnt. No doubt Napo's lawyers will be able to advise about such action at the meeting on 2nd September.

    3. I suppose no harm in speculation, but it really does need to come with a health warning because employment law is complex and what can seem an injustice in life is not always so in law.

      As for staff being able to get well-paid alternative work, this is pollyannish

      Staff can refuse and if they do they will be in breach of their contracts and they will be summarily dismissed.

      As for constructive dismissal, these are notoriously difficult to win and tend to only raise false hopes.

    4. I plead guilty to being unrealistic and also ignorant of employment law but find it hard to accept that one can be TUPEED without consent with the penalty dismissal.

      Of course if no other work is available most folk will probably take that which is available for now & keep looking for an alternative. That was how it worked for me when I could no longer tolerate working for my then particular probation employer. Plan A collapsed, I was fortunate in finding temporary driving work that paid more than was available otherwise. I took the first professional job that came along - locum social worker - had a better look at longer term alternatives - maternity leave cover with a probation service within commuting distance and then permanent employment with that probation employer. Again I was fortunate in the late 80s my CQSW gave opportunities.

      However, working in probation I believe folk become more employable than before they started in probation. Obviously it is harder when there is a glut of ex probation folk.

      So were I currently in such a situation I expect if it became certain the transfers will happen I would then immediately look for alternative permanent work and in order to get ahead of the glut would consider foregoing the prospect of redundancy pay if I could get agreeable work. If that was unsuccessful I would be willing to go to the CRC & probably offer myself for redundancy. I would be VERY keen not to continue as a probation officer for more than a short period after the split - if there was a campaign not to be TUPEED I would probably be part of it as long as I could see a way to support my family.

    5. I feel people may get a shock entering the employment market again now. Zero hours or part time forms much of the choice. No one wants to pay for skills either. Its cheaper to train on the job and employers may even access funding for this. Getting things right is far less important now then getting things cheap.
      Years ago an apprenticeship took several years to perfect a skill. Now some NEET kids are doing 2 or even 3 apprenticeships a year. Non are worth a shite and they're all organised by shite outsourcing companies sub contracting to other shite agencies.
      Social work is obviously a compatable career but if you look its almost all agency work.
      No, if you're entering the labour market for the first time in a while, I promise you'll be shocked. Not just at what actually is available, but the whole ethic and ethos of it. The only real route forward is to be scrupulous and unethical, or shite work and even worse wages.

  5. I have been emailed "Transforming Rehabilitation Members Update 28th August 2013 from Tom Rendon and Ian Lawrence"

    I presume it has gone to all Napo Members who are signed up to receive email news (I did not realise I am but am glad to have received it)

    I will not reproduce it all here - it is for members - but will quote the bit I like best.

    "we are in discussions with lawyers and they will be in attendance at the meeting on 2nd September 2013"

    Andrew Hatton

    1. Or this bit even

      "You may be aware that the government has written to Trusts to advise them that their contracts will end on 31st March 2014. In doing so they are acting under the provisions of the Offender Management Act 2007 which allows the Secretary of State to give notice...."

  6. The Trust's predecessors, the probation boards, were perhaps (do I romanticise?) a different breed: socially conscious and aware, more cooperatively-minded. As we know, the Trusts were intended to be business-focused. I lost count of the times I was told about needing to live in the real world of competition, about the need to be lean and generate income. Oh yes, they were peacocks alright, forever displaying their self-satisfied smirks. They were Daily Mail editorials on legs with Gordon Gekko ambitions to rule their corner of the jungle. Well, those sad mutants didn't last long in the evolutionary game. I imagine they feel unappreciated. After all they dutifully implemented all the governments sought, they were not bleeding heart liberals. I wonder how many of them will pop up out of the slime to get work with TR contractors. The probation service has not run on any principles for years, so the behaviour of most of the Trust chairs is to be expected. Look where the probation leaders took us. Difficult to avoid military metaphors of lions and donkeys – and to think of leaders quaffing champagne in ch√Ęteaus while their men stood in stinking trenches.

    PS: the Napo TR Update is on the main Napo website, but it adds little to what we know already

  7. The government has called in police to investigate claims of fraud involving the prisoner transfers contract held by security firm Serco.

    The alleged fraud relates to management of the £285m prison escorting contract with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

    Serco employees allegedly recorded prisoners as having been delivered ready for court when in fact they were not, the MoJ said.

    The contract covers prison transfer services in London and East Anglia.

    It has been put under administrative supervision with immediate effect.

    Contracts threat

    Recording prisoners as being delivered ready for court is a key performance measure for the contract.

    Both the MoJ and Serco's directors have asked City of London police to investigate the actions of the staff working on Serco's Prisoner Escorting and Custodial Services (PECS).

    Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said there had been "actions which need to be investigated by the police".

    He added: "We have not seen evidence of systemic malpractice up to board level.

    "But we have been clear with the company [that] unless it undertakes a rapid process of major change, and becomes completely open with government about the work it is doing for us, then it will not win public contracts in future.

    "The taxpayer must know that their money is being properly used."

    1. Is anyone actually surprised? I mean really and truely surprised.


    What the fudge how much more evidence do you need that this is a terrible idea.

    1. Maybe its about time to ask the government just exactly what contracts its outsourced that have been successful!!
      Its time to call it a day. And you never know. Doing so may actually restore some credibility for the government.
      The article mentioned above in Our Kingdom links nicely with this news.
      Wonder how much sleep poor old Grayling gets at night? Hes hardly got the midas touch has he?

  9. Just another thing to note in this forever extending murky world of corruption, charities are now debating wheather they would be legally in a better place if they were defined as social enterprises instead of charities.
    You wonder why that debate should arise just about now eh?
    And to top it all charities are now (court of appeal ruling) exempt from land stamp duty even if its purched with a profit orientated partner. Charities must now be a very desirable partnership prospect for many unethical greedy fat companies.
    All said and done its the whole barrel thats rotten. Everyones just lining their pockets.

    1. That was the irony about Godfrey Bloom's recent Bongo Bongo Land gaffe - the implication that only Third World despots were corrupt and that it didn't happen here. Oops.

  10. Chris Grayling in response to Serco being caught with their fingers in the till once again says;
    Serco must go through a process of change, become transparent with the government regarding their state contracts, otherwise they wont get anymore!
    As Serco have already agreed to repay £2m and return any profit made on the contract until it expires in 2018, I feel there can be little doubt as to their guilt.
    However, instead of withdrawing all existing contracts as a consequence of multi millions of pounds fraud on multiple occasions, Graylings statement clearly indicates the governments intent to give them more contracts in the future!
    Grayling may consider applying the same thinking process to the ever increasing prison population. If he allowed bank robbers, burglers, fraudsters and swindlers simply to return their ill gotten gains as he allows the large outsourcing companies to do, then I feel sure he would see a marked reduction in prison populations.
    But his hands are tied are they not? Having lifted the lid on the great pandoras box that is outsourcing he no longer has alternatives. Unless he puts it all back into the public sector who else can do the work? G4S perhaps? No, all he can do is carry on and keep his fingers crossed that he dosen't get robbed of too much too often.
    I would be very interested to know just how much money has been swindled (not frittered away-thats another calculation), by the companies awarded outsourcing contracts by this government? I mean the A4e work programme fiasco has nicely been tucked away under the carpet!
    Outsourcing is clearly not working. Infact its quite disgusting really. Its almost like a modern day gold rush with even charities wanting to become social enterprises instead of charities so they can extract their few quid.
    The Klondyke was once a busy old place. Its just desolate now.

    1. Serco should not just be foregoing future profits, they should be compensating courts and prisons for the delays caused by their failure to do this job properly.