Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Trouble at t' Mill

So here we are on the eve of the great probation sell off and understandably things are getting fractious. People send me stuff all the time because they want to do something to try and stop this whole disgraceful break-up of a proud, well-performing public service, and I'm enormously grateful because it informs, galvanises and helps to fill the empty pages. 

For fairly obvious reasons I have to be careful in deciding what to publish. Confidences are always respected, but I'm not the BBC and in the middle of a battle for survival, I don't feel the need to be balanced. In fact I'm quite partisan and utterly determined to try and win this battle, or at the very least be part of what future historians might conclude was a decent bloody attempt at trying to save the job, ethos and profession I love.

Despite the news that yesterday's Napo NEC 'endorsed the industrial action strategy', many people have voiced their concern at the stance taken by Napo in conducting negotiations with the PCA and MoJ/Noms and what they perceive as a lack of a decent fight to stop the whole Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles. The latest blog post by the General Secretary gives a hint of tensions brewing:-

I have seen a couple of e-mails coming in to Chivalry Road complaining about Napo not being in the national news every day. It's a great notion but sorry, it does not reflect the real world or fact that every day we are up against a host of other competing stories. 

Since May the 9th we have exploited a whole number of national media opportunities on press radio and TV, but just because you don't happen to see us when we are on, it does not mean that it has not happened! 

Working flat out 

Finally, and because I think it's worth saying just before we ramp up our response to the Government over TR and enter what will be an extremely hostile and testing environment. I want to make it clear that my National Officials and the Chivalry Road team are putting in a huge shift in defence of our members interests, often well over and above the normal call of duty. I am pleased to have them working with me, I am proud of their efforts and I have absolute faith in their ability. 

To summarise, whatever the content of the draft agreement, many, many people feel that entering into negotiations in the first place was a big mistake. I would not usually publish private e-mails, but such is the feeling amongst significant numbers of contributors to this blog that I feel it's appropriate in this instance. 

The following is a very recent e-mail exchange between a branch official and Napo General Secretary, but has now been circulated to all members of the branch in question. Readers must make up their own mind as to the validity of the points raised, together with the content and tone of the reply:- 

Hi Ian & Tom, 

Having read the TR negotiations & consultations dated 11/9/13, I feel compelled to express my concerns regarding the latest developments and instructions to local reps and branches. This contains a mixed message of negotiating on a national level whilst fundamentally passing the responsibility back to local representatives. It is our members who pay their membership rates to employ you for national collective bargaining with the appropriate expertise defending the terms of employment, as we currently know them. At this most crucial time our union needs to demonstrate the will to call for strike action in its own defence and survival. The change agenda, ignoring the history of our Service, seeks to divide and conquer. 
It appears to many who write within our branch that Napo represents a failure to recognise the true meaning of the collective bargaining and negotiation processes through devolving down to local branches the consultation process. Further, this exposes those branch officers who may not have had the required level of expertise essential for these employment related technical matters. It will therefore most likely leave members in all Trusts differentially exposed, creating  vulnerabilities that are different across the country at such a critical time. 

It is clear from what is presented that consultative processes and negotiation routes can never deliver a satisfactory outcome for our members. Fundamentally you are asking and expecting us to do a U-turn by engaging in consultations that effectively seek to privatise our jobs. On this point alone we should have been balloting for industrial action as the reality bites. You appear out of touch with members of the branches I speak with. From the indicative ballot it was a mistake to hide the turn out rate, those should have been used to illustrate to members the need to take action. Had Napo national got link officers and officials out to discover the fundamental ground swell of opinion and the desire from the membership to see real leadership from Napo and take the agenda forward for a proper ballot for action and have a real fight with the Government. You could be leading this fight and properly challenging this failing Grayling agenda. 

At the point when national negotiations started failing and no proper or legitimate mandate to allow for any agreement with employers which countenance privatisation in any form, the next step should be consideration to ballot for industrial action, thus seeking the views and a mandate from membership. Not to mention the potentials for arbitration later on. The juxtaposition that we now face is because things appear too fraught for you to properly manage.

Local reps, are now charged to take up the mantle with local management who are intent to deliver on the TR agenda and will use their authority and resources to drive it through. It is my view, and that of my branch, that national collective bargaining remains with both Napo and Unison to act to prevent the need to have this privatisation foisted onto local branches. If indeed this round of discussion fails what will be the national negotiating position?  
The next step should not be the passing of agreements or otherwise to local reps as this fails the need to have a national recognition arrangement.  As a JNCC representative of the only area to register a formal dispute over TR and failure to agree over practices of senior management and our local Board, Napo has done nothing I can see to ensure the rest of the country register further failures with local trusts over TR. 

I find myself asking why Napo appears weak and complacent raising more concern! To combat, this branches raise motions to galvanise and encourage action. I am further alarmed to discover from our branch NEC representative, that there has been no circulation to NEC reps and branches of an emergency motion. I am told it was at HQ in time for national mail out and it is an accepted motion within the constitutional rules. Yet it was not distributed, thus reducing member awareness to the important issues. It appears to me to confirm Napo are taking action to stifle circulation that calls for a fight and issues to be taken to the AGM,  we need to prevent the furtherance of the Grayling agenda by forwarding decisions to the more democratic platform of the AGM, not stifling member involvement. 

I have taken action to link with reps from our bid lot areas to ensure that we take a more localised and assertive approach and hopefully prevent a divide and rule outcome in xxxx, xxxxxx and xxxxx. I expect such an approach will need be thought of and replicated across other bid areas but there has been no central guidance/instruction to require this.

I hear daily from local members who are becoming disheartened with the way the process is being dealt with on a national level and we cannot be quiet whilst at the same time be expected to fight in isolation, which is what your proposals fundamentally mean. Napo need to say what it is really doing and get a mandate from members to do something more than hoping this might go away just from government incompetence and dishonest privateer companies. 
We need to meet it head on to ensure we kill the plans not try and cuddle them to death or we will be facing the death of our current Service and careers.


If you had awaited the outcome of the NEC today and its decisions which are entirely different to the position that you suggest we are taking, then you might not have needed to write this e-mail. By the way your Branch helpfully withdrew its Emergency Motion as being overtaken by events. 

NEC reps have been invited to obtain the results of the indicative ballot and discuss these with Branches but the Officers and I are confident that it was the right decision not to make this public. 

I see that your Trust is in the news today too...........  

By all means come back to me after you have seen the next Branch memo about the consultation process and our position. Meanwhile you will not be surprised to hear that I fundamentally disagree with your criticism, but won't be taking it personally! 

Best wishes and yours in solidarity


A few other matters have come to my attention. Firstly, the very sad and sobering news that it would appear the person responsible for the 'Save Probation' twitter account and blog has lost their job as a direct result of campaigning, and secondly, our old friend Sir Stephen Bubb continues to be a complete arse:-

I’m hot footing it from Glasgow to No 10 for a private meeting on the tender arrangements for the probation and rehabilitation reforms. I've been impressed with the care and skill that the Cabinet Office and MoJ have taken to listen to the issues that the third sector have raised and the support being given to ensure we can compete. But, as always, the proof of the probation pudding will be in the eating!  

Finally, a recent poll by 'We Own It' shows that 58% of the great British Public feel that G4S and Serco should be banned from public service bids. 


  1. I totally agree with the e-mail re lack of 'collective responsibility' and I find the Napo response, (the bit reproduced) somewhat defensive and unhelpful. These are very dark days and for those who are losing faith in their paid representatives, you can always write to newspapers yourself. A question was posed in the letters page of a Sunday National last weekend, in relation to the sell off of the Royal Mail...Who is next? - well I have answered the question. Now I appreciate that Probation is not on everybody's mind, but if my letters to my MP and a letter to a National gets a response, I have done something to bring information to the general public and will continue to do so. I would urge everyone to ask of their MP, the question suggested by a contributor yesterday...about the findings identified by a recent inquiry into the lack of joined up thinking and communication between services which permitted a child to die at the hands of his parents; how safe will our children be in the hands of disparate profit driven companies? While I am at it - just to share how cynical I have become, is the plan to give all children under 7 free school meals just another financial break for the well off and could the soon to be announced tax break for married couples just be a shrewd plan to benefit those who remain in marriage and the lawyers for those who don't?

    1. Just for clarification, I have reproduced both e-mails in their entirety, only removing the name of the Napo official, reference to the Trust involved and a link to a news item.

      I can tell you that if I got a response to an e-mail along the lines reproduced above, there would be serious trouble!

  2. I cant help but feel let down by the union, and from what I read I'm not the only one. They've really taken the approach that 'we know whats best for you, leave it all to us'. I feel led along like a sheep, not really knowing where I'm being led to, or what I'm going there for, but constantly reassured that it's all for my own good.
    With regard to information sharing and giving? Well I'm sorry NAPO but you really haven't been very good at that at all. You may have shared information with a few privilaged sources, but most of the information I've gotten has been from sites like this one and a few outspoken rebels whos passion to save the service shines through brightly. Nope! I can't help but feel your own agenda has been more important then the save the service one.

    On an aside Jim,
    "Chris Grayling the compulsive liar at the heart of government: jonnyvoid".
    It's old (last year) and not about TR. But it makes a wonderful book at bed time. Sorry if you've read it.

    1. Thanks for that - absolutely excellent!

    2. Jim thats a most excellent site. Have you read this one.

      The void: "Chris Grayling the so called justice secretary who wants to be above the law"

  3. Yesterdays guardian society reported that a suprise inspection at HMP Bristol found it not only overrun with cackroaches and in a state of meltdown, but also discovered that a prison officer was not giving meals to an inmate because he had decided to punish him.
    Gardian society today reports on Wormwood Scrubs. It reports that there has been a 50% raise in the use of restraint by staff, huge increases in prisoner violence, and basically staff are very fearful of their safety.
    Prison budgets are to be further cut by 21% this October. The situation is dire, and can only get worse.
    The prisoners currently held in these regimes are the people that will in the future be supervised in the community on licence. Probably by untrained, unprepared and unprofessional private contractors.
    Things for the CJS have become very bleak indeed, and its future looks even darker.
    Isn't time for the government to put its hands up and say 'we've ballsed it up' and set about restoring some sanity to the system, instead of wringing pennies from it until its bleed to death.

    1. Our governments no longer represent out best interests, or so it would seem. We will reap what we sow and next Summer is going to be 'interesting'.

  4. Article:
    This is local london:
    "Chris Grayling MP defends probation reforms after campaigners decend on Epsom"

    The 12mth and under are not supervised by probation he says here. Is that what hes always led the public to believe?

  5. I never really understood/grasped the process being followed by Napo. This is what I surmise: there was some kind of draft agreement, with more to be discussed and agreed, but even parts of the draft agreement were missing. Then it was down to Branches to talk to members and feedback to the NEC. Now a Industrial Action Strategy (IAS) is to be implemented following the breakdown of negotiations which have broken down because the MoJ/Employers have shown bad faith.

    I don't understand why the IAS must be a big secret at this point and that briefings will be given to branches by NEC Reps. As with the cloak and dagger approach to the turnout on the indicative ballot, we will find out soon enough and then there can be some open discussion about the strategy.

    As regards the exchange of emails, why on earth did the general secretary find to necessary to point out that he was not taking any criticisms personally – as by that assertion he effectively personalised his side of the argument. Seems to me that there could be a bit of a siege mentality developing in Chivalry Road. They feel unappreciated and misunderstood and they are working beyond normal expectations. They would feel less isolated perhaps if they listened more to what the membership is saying and when criticisms are made, don't have a glass jaw.

    I can't understand why Save Probation has been dismissed - for campaigning. There was nothing offensive or libelous as far as I could see. It's been a very rapid dismissal.

    1. If they are misundetstood at Chivalry road its because of their failure to be open, explain how they intend to resist TR, and keep the membership up to date with stage by stage progress, (or setbacks for that matter).
      My personal opinion is they have acted almost independently of the membership. If thats an unfair critisism, then I'll accept I'm wrong if someone can explain the steps that have been taken to prevent TR, and how the membership have been involved and informed as those steps have been taken.

  6. I do not believe SaveProbation has been dismissed according to a direct message via Twitter received yesterday - I think disciplined is more apposite.

    Andrew Hatton

  7. Jim,

    As an brief aside from the understandable & lively exchanges on Napo/TR honest admission from Prof E Munro -whose authored the landmark review of CP in SW commenting on the SCR of the tragic Daniel Pelka case...stands in contrast with some of the recent Inspectorate brickbats on front line practice & the s/v of Lifers! a salutary reminder perhaps to those likely to bid for probation wk of what may well come their way in SFO enquiries ?



    Eileen Munro on Daniel Pelka case: ‘I can’t claim I would have done better’ -

  8. Was looking out my exam certificates last night (think I might need them soon) and came across a letter from a previous CO thanking me for helping to organise our centenary celebrations, which I'd completely forgotten about. Dorset joined up with Wilts; and we had games/picnic on the cathedral green followed by a service of thanksgiving at Salisbury cathedral. I was asked to cut the ceremonial cake, and I remember saying as I did so 'here's to the next 100 years......'The letter is dated June 2007. Now look at us; barely 6 years a situation so completely awful whatever your perspective on it.

  9. It'S just so not the same in Liverpool. But we do have two cathedrals.

  10. Government has published a response to Peition to Parliament - spot the nonsense:-

    This e-petition has received the following response:

    As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:.

    On 9 May 2013, the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, announced new measures to reform rehabilitation services for offenders. Aimed at tackling our stubbornly high reoffending rates, these measures will ensure for the first time, every offender released from custody receives a minimum of 12 supervision and rehabilitation in the community. To achieve this, the Government is legislating to extend this statutory supervision and rehabilitation to the most prolific group of offenders – those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody. We are putting in place an unprecedented nationwide ‘through the prison gate’ resettlement service meaning offenders will be given continuous support by one provider from custody into the community.. We will support this by ensuring that most offenders are held in a prison designated to their area for at least three months before release. We are opening up the market to a diverse range of new rehabilitation providers, so that we get the best out of the public, voluntary and private sectors, at both local and national level. The providers will have the flexibility to do what works but will only be paid in full for real reductions in reoffending.

    Protecting the public is our top priority. Management of those offenders who pose the highest risk of serious harm will remain with the public sector. Cases will be referred by the provider to the public sector probation service for a reassessment of risk if there is a significant change in the offender’s circumstances, or intelligence received indicate that the risk of serious harm may have escalated to high. If the public sector probation service assesses the case as having escalated to high it will take over the responsibility for that case. New providers will have contractual obligations to work in partnership with the public sector probation service in managing risk of serious harm.

    This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold"

    Andrew Hatton