Having been living under a coalition Lib/Con government for some years now, we are all familiar enough with the political reality that comes with a move to the right, but this is different, According to the latest blog post from Joe Kuipers, Chair of Avon and Somerset PT, those very clever young things down at MoJ/Noms HQ have come up with a cunning wheeze to deal with the dangerous delays now besetting the whole TR omnishambles implementation timetable - a move to the right. You simply put off some 'too difficult' matters to after March 31st when probation trusts are due to disappear.
What is becoming ever more clear by the day is that the dire warnings contained in the government's own Risk Register, and which Chris Grayling still refuses to publish, are coming true. With some authority, this is what Joe Kuipers predicts will not be ready by the due date:-
- Not all cases will have been transferred safely and correctly to their new owners in either the CRCs or NPS. Even if all goes 'well' it is a fair assumption that at least 10% of cases will be in the wrong place;
- New case owners are not likely to know their caseloads well enough to make informed decisions about actions to take or not, especially critical for those that might just 'go wrong';
- Not all staff will be in the right organisation, and the business demands on the new organisations (NPS and CRCs) are at best a bit of a guess until they have operated for say 6 months;
- Not all trust business can be completed before the year end;
- It is not clear that all HR matters such as appeals and voluntary departures will be resolved;
- IT is very unlikely to be working fully;
- Staff and manager training will not be finished;
- It is highly likely that at least one case somewhere will 'go wrong' in the period as the new organisations are settling down if there remains continued insistence on the complete separation being achieved by then.
He goes on to refer to Sue Hall and Sebert Cox's evidence to the Justice Affairs Select Committee yesterday and the fact that the MoJ may decide to impose a decision regarding terms and announce it today in a telephone conference call:-
As well as pressing for the national risk register I have suggested to our Transition team, in the strongest possible manner, that the MoJ / NOMS rescales the timetable in recognition of the above 'facts'. I agree entirely with the evidence given to the Justice Select Committee today concerning the dangers and associated risks of the currently given timetable. In more sensible moments I hear phrases from MoJ colleagues like: 'We are looking to see what we can move to the right of the timetable' (meaning post 31 March); 'We are assessing what we must do before 31 March and what can be left until later'; 'We are looking to see if we can separate the timescales for the termination of the contract and the dissolution of Trusts'; etc. These are pretty open acknowledgements that the current timetable cannot and will not be met, so my advice, draw up a new realistic one rather than a weekly reschedule and repeated apologies which causes endless problems for local Trusts.
In the blog post Joe goes on to make some helpful suggestions as to how the MoJ might deal with the current difficulties in a responsible manner, but the trouble is I suspect his advice is treated with the utmost suspicion and whether by accident or design is intended to ensure they do the exact opposite. In any event it's hard to argue with this:-
A final thought to concentrate the minds, by my reckoning we have about 12 real working weeks left for the MoJ to get this right (er), if you take out Christmas and New Year times and agree that leaving matters to March is seriously risky? To put it another way, to meet 31 March deadlines the business needs to be in the right place by the end of February? Now, how likely is that?
Meanwhile, over on the Napo forum pages, the new tailgunner issues a storm warning:-
By all accounts the meeting at the Big House did not go well today. There is a teleconference tomorrow afternoon at 4.30 between Michael Spurr/Colin Allars and Chairs & Chiefs. The indication is that unless all parties are signed up to the draft National Agreement on Staff Transfer by lunchtime, then the Secretary of State will press the button and impose at 4.30. If this happens, it could be that letters of automatic assignment would begin to be issued by the end of the week. There should be a period of local consultation prior to implementation of any aspect of the scheme - indeed there really has to be in respect of those subject to 'Expressions of Interest' and Sifting but trusts just could implement automatic assignment without prior consultation.
A written statement from the MoJ on their final position over the outstanding areas of concern is still awaited and is due to be issued this evening, giving all stakeholders tomorrow morning to read it, digest it and decide whether they can accept it and thus sign up to the agreement. Given that as yet no-one actually knows what this statement contains, some might say that this is an unreasonable manner in which to behave. A draft position statement (undated and unsigned) was handed out at yesterday's NNC but was not formally presented to the meeting. It contains some concessions which would be of benefit and may form the basis for the final version but nobody really knows.
Quite how the various stakeholders (unions, trusts and Probation Association) will react to this ultimatum remains to be seen.
If there is imposition, what would it be? It would be the Staff Assignment Process as currently drafted by the NNC together with as yet incomplete Guidance prepared by the PA, which, in effect, will have been usurped by the MoJ. It is unclear as to whether the enhanced voluntary redundancy package would be issued as well - though it seems unlikely. Imposition may also jeopardise other things in the draft National Agreement such as ongoing national collective bargaining across both the NPS and CRCs. Again all this remains unclear until the MoJ issue their final written position statement.