Thursday, 22 August 2013

Omnishambles Update 16

Since the last update we've had the debate triggered by John Steele, Chair of Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust, basically telling us that we all had to jolly well stop fighting the omnishambles and just get on with the government's wishes. It strikes me that if this is the typical view of so-called independent Probation Trusts, then they were a pretty useless feature if they see their function as to merely do what any government wants.

Ok there always has to be the exception to the rule and before Joe Kuipers, Chair of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, presses the tweet button, I'd better confirm that he and his Trust do indeed seem to be ploughing a rather different furrow. As regular readers will be aware, Joe Kuipers has been conspicuously taking an individualistic approach to the whole unfolding omnishambles and regularly publishes via his blog as much information as I guess he dares.

It also transpires that it would seem the Freedom of Information request concerning the secret MoJ TR Risk Register originates from his Trust Board and I'm pleased to say that an appeal against the refusal to publish has now been lodged. I'm no lawyer, but the precedent quoted indicates to me that it has a good chance of success. I have to say that it's extremely sad to see only one Trust taking such robust action, all the others including John Steele's having seemingly caved in and now in the process of just 'following orders'.

To be honest I'd have rather have seen Napo taking such action, but no such luck. You really do begin to wonder what the hell is going on at Napo HQ and I know for a fact that many active members are getting fractious with the leadership about, well, a lack of leadership!

If something doesn't happen soon, the AGM at Llandudno is going to be an even more unpleasant experience than I was envisaging, post the shenanigans earlier this year. I've seen a memo from Chivalry Road that talks of "negotiations being frenetic and fast moving". I thought Napo was supposed to be fighting all this, not 'negotiating' it, or have I got that wrong? Sadly members seem to have given up using the forum with nothing posted since August 15th.    

For some time Prof Senior has been saying that he felt the biggest winners from probation privatisation would be the mostly anonymous facilities management outsourcing companies, like Interserve and Mitie. Here's what Interserve's boss was saying recently to City AM about his expansion plans:- 

Another part of the spending review that could have big implications for Interserve is the possibility of cuts at the Ministry of Justice.

Interserve has already been at the sharp end of such savings drives, as one of several firms applying to take over Durham Prison when the MoJ took bids last year. The government opted to keep the jail when it became clear the project would not deliver the cost cuts and upgrades it hoped for.
“The way we’ve chosen to look at it is while it’s frustrating, it’s given us the opportunity to build a team, get known, develop some competency and to have a couple of more years of learning before we go for the big one.
“So, am I trying to put a polish on a disappointment? Yeah, probably I am. We would have loved to have got some business out of that experience. The fact that nobody did makes it a slightly less bitter pill to swallow.”
He is now in discussions about taking on some of the probation service, which the MoJ aims to privatise in autumn 2014.
Ringrose is also weighing up options for “between £150m and £200m of firepower to develop the business”, funded from the leftover windfall from selling PFI assets as well as debt facilities. Even more money could be found if the deal was compelling.

This is what a commentator said recently on this blog about such companies:-

"Be sure that they're certainly there to make a profit. But also be sure that the only ones that will profit are the huge outsourcing companies. I'm sure that many employed in the public sector for any period of time, however savvy they may be, have no idea how savage, corrupt, and unethical outsourcing has become. And I mean no offence by that, but however bad you may perceive it to be, it's worse. Unfortunately, I think anyone entering the private sector from probation who has any moral substance are going to be both shocked and appalled."
According to Leicestershire Napo, it looks like Mitie are getting into bed with Leicestershire and Rutland Probation Trust to form a mutual called Momentis. I seem to remember Mitie were really crap at organising a probation property management contract in the past, but clearly they now think they can make a better job of running the whole show instead. According to the Financial Times:-

Mitie, which is this week providing catering services at the Chelsea Flower Show, also provides facilities management services for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service in the south of England. It is now planning bids for the justice department’s new facilities management contracts in prisons, as well as £500m of probation services that are expected to come up for tender later this year.

According to this MoJ press release, LRPT were one of a number of trusts selected to share £500,000 of government money to set up mutuals, along with Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, West Mercia and Warwickshire, Kent and Sussex and Surrey, Essex and finally London. We also know West Yorkshire are setting up a mutual.  
On the subject of mutuals, it seems as if Gloucestershire PT have persuaded 90% of the staff to go for a mutual, but I'm very unclear as to the degree and nature of staff consultation both here and elsewhere. In fact this whole issue has attracted the attention of the TUC as reported here on Civil Society:- 
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Increasing numbers of employees are leaving the public sector through the government’s mutualisation programme, often against their will.

“The mutuals that are being formed often don’t meet the democratic and open criteria of genuine co-operatives. In fact, many are simply privatised services under the cover of mutuals.

“These new entities will give controlling stakes to investors rather than workers and allow important public institutions to be taken over by large for-profit providers.

There are those of course who believe that mutuals are just Trojan horses enabling the big boys to gain control a bit further down the line, should any gain contracts that is.

Finally, it looks like Capita are likely to be the major winners in the new electronic tagging contracts. Now aren't they the outfit that are currently doing a brilliant job providing interpreting services to HMCTS?  

PS - Here's an interesting article in today's Independent suggesting that G4S and Serco are running rings round the MoJ mandarins. 

PPS  - The omnishambles competition will be launched officially during the second half of September.  


  1. Unfortunately, as they all have shares in each others company and satalite ventures, it doesn't matter to a large extent who gets what contract.
    They all get to feed from the carcass, it's just a question of who feeds first!
    Outsourcing has become, on a global scale, a process of social and moral rape.

  2. RE Napo (of which I am an associate [without a vote] member) and the Trades Unions.

    I was at the excellent Brighton public meeting - I encourage all who are concerned for probation's future to listen to the four speeches.

    It was difficult for those on floor to get into a discussion - I managed a heckle of Ian Lawrence - about the non disclosure of the indicative ballot - and a blundered comment/question in which I unsuccessfully tried to expose the paucity of the MOJ/Prison Service/NPS/NOMs officials knowledge of Criminal Justice at the front-line and the fact that when TR fails it may be as serious for Governemnt as the Poll Tax eventually was for the 1990 Conservative Government - which effectively had to change prime ministers as a consequence of them continuing with a policy which those in the know - knew was doomed to failure from years earlier (Patrick Jenkin - the environment minister told Thatcher in about 1984/5 - he was replaced)

    The most informative speaker about the 'negotiations' was Maureen Le Marinel, President of Unison, and a CJS administration employee of Lancashire Police - she had driven - just for that meeting from Chorley in Lancashire to Brighton and was due to drive back the following morning - real commitment to the cause.

    Maureen Le Marinel, talked about intensive negotiations - last week with MOJ I think about staff conditions - Ian Lawrence made no reference to those negotiations. She and he both stressed that Industrial Action was very definitely a very last resort of opposition and that Industrial Action would not necessarily be strike action.

    Last week I made a real gaff about misinterpreting the status of the FIRST probation mutual Laurus, thankfully I was corrected by Paul Senior.

    They are a probation TRAINING mutual

    Whether they seek to become a probation service PROVIDING mutual, as well, time will tell - they seem the sort of organisation who might seek so to be, particularly after the post from their CEO that was blogged via Russell Webster's web pages.

    Anyway I acknowledged my error - probably dyslexia/dyspraxia related(why I struggled with probation admin for 30 years - and was finally beaten when I was required to be 'self administering' despite never being trained thoroughly as a computer operator or typist - and that work not being specified in my job description)

    I also go off at tangents due to the unusual memory system of folk with neurological disorders - many who end up committing crime and/or as addicts (I settled just for addiction!)

    I acknowledged my error on the Napo Forum and no one has posted anything there since - it really does not seem a place for ongoing discussion - maybe because it is public.

    I have now established a Yahoo Discussion Group/ ideally for those concerned with probation practice and management now and into the future. I have given it little exposure and have not even posted a message yet - I am not sure how to alert people, to it - it will be private members only - no charge - I would like it to be collegiate and to have several people to share responsibility for approving membership applications, preventing spam and if absolutely necessary moderating posts. It is called - for the time being:-

    "PBNEW · PROBATION in England & Wales - what now?"

    I will say no more now and see if anyone responds.

    Andrew S Hatton,
    Essex, England.

  3. Mitie - yes they send cleaners from Nottingham to offices in West Yorkshire, whilst our 'caretaker guy' goes to Filey, whilst his replacement comes to us from York....the geography is mad! Oh and due to a crazy workload this spring/summer, I found myself getting into the office around 7am and therefore got acquainted with our regular saddens me to say, but I have had to end pleasantries with said member of staff, as said colleague has a serious problem with Asian people, and boy don't we know it. As my office is in a highly diverse community, it is therefore clear, that Mitie seemingly have no policy against employees holding and sharing, their racist attitudes.

  4. Netnipper: TR will transform Napo. It will kill off once and for all the ambiguity as to whether it's a staff association or a trade union. It cannot fight TR and I think much of this passivity is attributable to the previously identified robotic offender managers. The replicants really did take over.

    Napo's dog in manger reluctance to share the results of the indicative ballot barks out weakness. Pity unions are not subject to freedom of information laws.

    Napo is not going to waste money fighting TR. It wants to conserve its assets. Napo is no different to those senior managers, etc, who are eyeing up all opportunities to survive in the post- apocalyptic world. Napo wants to maintain it membership levels as best it can – it does not want to alienate those (I suspect the majority) who did not bother to vote. The last thing you want is for your robotic members to view you as left-wing – strike action is so 70s... Interesting how robots can become political when the mood suits – must be something to do with the neoliberal programming and Stanley Milgram- type obedience.

    Napo will continue with its lobbying work as it likes to be part of the Westminster village! but there will be no radicalism.

  5. I wonder if Netnipper: heard Ian Lawrence's address to the Brighton Meeting (historical note - typing that - I hear a parodical mimicry of Harold Wilson in my head) - I believe the opposition is serious and determined and now primarily focused on tactical lobbying of MPs especially the Lib Dems and those in the 40 most marginal constituencies plus trying to get more amendments into the Offender Rehabilitation Bill.

    It is such amendments that Napo - via the person of Harry Fletcher has been successful at before.

    Folks may not realise it was a Napo inspired amendment that introduced discrimination monitoring into probation work - section 95 CJA 91 (The same Act that destroyed the spirit of probation!)

    "95 Information for financial and other purposes.

    (1)The Secretary of State shall in each year publish such information as he considers expedient for the purpose of—
    (a)enabling persons engaged in the administration of criminal justice to become aware of the financial implications of their decisions;
    [F1(aa)enabling such persons to become aware of the relative effectiveness of different sentences—
    (i)in preventing re-offending, and
    (ii)in promoting public confidence in the criminal justice system; ]F1 or
    (b)facilitating the performance by such persons of their duty to avoid discriminating against any persons on the ground of race or sex or any other improper ground.
    (2)Publication under subsection (1) above shall be effected in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the information to the attention of the persons concerned."