Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Lull Before the Storm

This definitely feels like the lull before the storm. We've a pretty good idea what's coming, but there's nothing more we can do about it. We have no alternative but to wait for the inevitable with dread and a sense of foreboding. 

Radio traffic has dwindled on Twitter with just sporadic outbreaks of fruitless and ill-tempered dialogue between protagonists such as Andrew and Debbie. There's been no word from tailgunner for 24 hours, but Russell Webster stoically tries to keep twitter interest going and still has high hopes for the Justice Data Lab, despite lots of "There is insufficient evidence at this stage to draw a conclusion................"

But in this awful waiting stage I think there's one bit of really good news for the TR omnishambles - Harry is back! I see he's tweeted:-

I have agreed to act as consultant to Napo on the Campaign.Working on amendments to OR bill as a priority and lobbying LDs

As Margaret Thatcher might have put it, 'Rejoice, rejoice!'

PS - Urgent transmission form Napo HQ dated 19/11/13 11:11

Dear Member

As you will be aware, the Probation Negotiating Committee* met yesterday to discuss the current negotiations on the proposed Staff Transfer Scheme.  The final day for consideration of the documents takes place tomorrow at the National Negotiating Council.  You will also be aware that the Ministry of Justice has directed Trusts to begin the process of the “staff split” and that they will seek to impose a process if there is no agreement.

We must be crystal clear on this point: any attempt to issue letters or guidance about “automatic assignment” or “expressions of interest” by Trusts  is a premature move designed to undermine the established industrial relations machinery.  If your Trust issues any kind of instruction to members, the branch must repeat this message:

“We decline to engage in this process until the NNC negotiations are concluded on Wednesday 20th November 2013 and the outcome is known.” 

Please make it clear that you are refusing to engage on the basis of national advice and await further guidance which will be issued on Wednesday.

This email is a holding statement and will lack much of the information that members are understandably seeking. We appreciate that is a very difficult position for you to be in.  The reason for the circumspection is that the MoJ read our emails almost immediately.   Locally, hold your nerve and the position will be clearer on Wednesday.

We repeat the message that TR is not a done deal.

Ian Lawrence & Tom Rendon

*The Probation Negotiating Committee is made up of 8 members from across the grade bands and from different branches, together with the General Secretary, Chair, Treasurer, Assistant General Secretary.  We were also accompanied by our legal adviser.


  1. CBI chief’s warning over outsource groups

    By Gill PlimmerDemonisation of outsourcing groups such as G4S and Serco threatens to undermine a “great British export success”, politicians have been warned.John Cridland, director-general of the CBI employers’ group, said “damaging” political rhetoric risked hurting an industry whose success was “as impressive as the renaissance of the British car industry”.G4S and Serco have become global pioneers in outsourcing for the public and private sectors but they have come under political attack in the UK after a series of scandals.Executives from G4S, Serco, Capita and Atos are due to be grilled by MPs in a hearing of the commons public accounts committee on Wednesday.Mr Cridland acknowledged that lessons must be learned from mistakes made in recent botched contracts but warned politicians against an anti-outsourcing witch hunt.“The rhetoric risks damaging a market which is hugely important to the future of this country and a fast-growing part of Britain’s economic renaissance,” he said in an interview.“I’m proud of these companies that have grown out of nowhere and exported that to the rest of the world.”The four companies to appear before MPs this week are the public sector’s biggest suppliers, holding contracts worth £6.6bn last year, ranging from running prisons to training RAF pilots.Last month the Serious Fraud Office announced that it would investigate G4S and Serco for alleged overbilling on contracts for electronic tagging of offenders.While acknowledging that mistakes had been made by the companies, Mr Cridland said the government must also improve its commissioning.Referring to the 2012 Olympics, when the government increased the number of security staff needed from 2,000 in the initial deal to 10,400 less than eight months before the start of the London games, he said: “If you change the goalpost halfway through, that’s when thing get difficult.”Last week the National Audit Office called for greater transparency around public sector contracts.Since the tagging scandal broke in May, G4S and Serco have lost their chief executives, launched their internal inquiries and seen their share prices dive. Both companies have said they will co-operate fully with the SFO investigation and will repay any amount due on the tagging contracts.The public accounts committee hearing on Wednesday is the first in a two-part inquiry into the outsourcing industry. Next week, officials from the Cabinet Office, Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice will be questioned over how closely they keep watch over companies that deliver sensitive public work.The Financial Times revealed last week that the MoD alone has more than £4bn of contracts with Serco, including one, running until 2024, to run the facility that builds Britain’s nuclear weapons.However, Mr Cridland expressed reservations about a “radical” MoD plan to outsource its procurement arm, which buys and maintains equipment for the military. Serco is part of a consortium bidding for the contract.“It is one extreme end of the pendulum,” he said. “The trend of direction is right but you need to test these things very carefully and that’s not something the government is always good at.”

    1. Very interesting - the battle lines are being drawn. I'm tempted to say the likes of G4S and Serco are welcome to the rest of the world - just leave us alone - but that would be to shirk our international responsibilities wouldn't it?

    2. Link for above


      It is far to quiet at the moment. However this week and next week should throw up some interesting debate. Ministers face the the select committee next week regarding their abillity to manage outsourced contracts.
      I do feel theres a storm on the horizon, it maybe we can only sit and watch it, but the landscape may look quite different when it settles.

    3. I'm not sure Jim. I get the feeling that Serco and G4S have to avoid any more reputational damage at all cost. TR is high risk in that respect.
      There will have to be greater transparency, which means all contracts will have to become much much tighter.
      Given the risks, more scrutiny, and more accountabillity for failings, it could mean a thanks but no thanks from Serco and G4S.
      They may however be in a situation where they're forced to take TR contracts or risk the existing contracts they have with the MoJ.
      It's an uncomfortable situation for everyone. Least of all for the Grim Grayling.

  2. Breaking news on the BBC:
    Private security firm G4S has agreed to pay back £23.3m after admitting the way it billed the government for tagging offenders was "not appropriate".

    A review by the National Audit Office also revealed that a G4S whistleblower had made allegations about the company.

    It comes after an audit suggested the firm had been charging for tagging criminals who were either dead, in jail or never tagged in the first place.

    The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has begun an investigation into the matter.

    When I was a PO anyone who nicked £23million wouldn't get put on probation...at report stage, in coustofy, I would be explaining that they should cancel their diary engagements for some years... so why is this thief in line to be GIVEN responsibility for the probation service??????!!!!!!

    1. That's 'custody' of course. "Coustofy' is probably a small village in County Down...

    2. Its in Dudley actually.

    3. They're not paying cash just offering an I.O.U in the form of credit notes. It is however an admisson of guilt and as such it should not just be acceptable to pay back what you stole but should also be punished aswell.
      An unmarried mum caught doing a few hours cleaning whilst signing on would certainly feel the full force of the law, so why shouldn't G4S?

  3. Another interesting outsourcing development just announced:-


    Private companies are just that private. I think they are begining to realise that Whitehall contracts are just absorbing them into another arm of government where they lose autonomy over their own buisness.

  4. £23m is a LOT of money, even in multinational corporate terms. It is nearly 3% of their global pre-tax profits for 2012. If an embarassing slip had been made, then a comparatively small amount could need to be repaid £100's of thousands, maybe a million or a few more... But £23m? Going back maybe to 1999? having to hand over 3% of your global profits for a cock-up in one country? That's not a mistake. That's a cultural stance. The mistake was breaking the 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not get found out".

    1. I think the OED added 'omnishambles' this year just for situations like this:-


      Grayling may be on the phone for some hours today!

    2. I know the courts have a backlog, but an arbitrary end date in Y3K for a tag? Thats a lot of trips to the police station to sign your bail extention.

  5. G4S are in more trouble that we thought earlier today:
    The MoJ have refused the 'offer' of £23m... seems it's not enough...

    1. Only trouble is it looks like the MoJ can't prove anything-they didn't have a system in place to monitor things.... oh my... talk about the blind leading the blind...

    2. As comment by annon at 12:39 indicates the government have no data nor any idea how much they've been overcharged, so don't know how much they should be requesting back! It's bound to take considerable time to establish and obviously the government will have to convince the public accounts committee next week that they have systems in place that can collect that data before any more outsourcing of public sector contracts can be undetaken. Can they proceed with TR until those systems are operational and tested? I don't know personally. But I do feel that Graylings aggressive time scale for the introductio of TR may be about to turn around and bite him.
      A question I feel should be pushed at the moment is this (and its one the national papers may pick up on),
      If contracts dealing with the management of offenders, that are fully supported by state of the art digital technology, satalites and GPS systems can be so easily manipulated and go so wrong, what confidence can the public have in TR which isn't supported by digital technology, but instead is dependent on untrained, overworked and low paid individuals getting it right?

  6. Sky news..

    Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "The admission of G4S today is staggering."The company refused to co-operate with the Government, which led to the referral to the SFO, and that should have rung alarm bells. It represents serious corporate failure."Contracts of this kind need to be conducted in good faith and represent value for money. Every G4S contract with the Government needs to be reviewed immediately, and they should be banned from bidding for any more."

  7. A slow day Jim ! I would say not..

  8. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/scandalhit-security-firm-g4s-to-pay-back-over-24m-after-overcharging-taxpayers-for-electronic-tagging-of-offenders-8948899.html

  9. MSN News: http://news.uk.msn.com/g4ss-£24m-tagging-offer-rejected

    A £24 million offer from security giant G4S to settle an overcharging scandal has been rejected by the Government as officials vowed to "pursue all possible avenues" to recoup more taxpayers' cash.

    The under-fire private contractor publicly admitted "unacceptable" failures in the way it charged for tagging offenders - which included bills for keeping tabs on people after they died.

    It said an independent review had found no evidence of dishonesty or criminal conduct.

    G4S and fellow contractor Serco are the subject of a criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over the way they operated the contracts.

    The investigation began after a forensic audit ordered by the Government following concerns raised about the system - including by one former G4S employee - exposed widespread failings.

    The shock revelations sparked a Government-wide review of all contracts held by Serco and G4S.

    A report issued by the National Audit Office (NAO) said the audit - carried out by accountancy firm PWC - had cost £2 million so far.

    It found Serco received £15,500 for operating a monitoring unit it had not been able to install in the first place for nearly five years and G4S kept taking money for three years in another case, netting £4.700.

    In another case, Serco billed the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) four separate times for the same tag as the individual was under multiple supervision orders, the public spending watchdog said.

    G4S said in a statement it had " wrongly considered itself to be contractually entitled to bill for monitoring services when equipment had not been fitted or after it had been removed".

    Credit notes have been issued for £23.3 million for the period from 2005 to May 2013, with another for £800,000 to follow for recent months.

    There was no evidence that it extended to any of its other Government contracts, said the firm, which has faced repeated criticism of its performance, not least over security for the 2012 Olympics.

    G4S group chief e xecutive Ashley Almanza - who faces a grilling by MPs on the issue when he and other Government contractors including Serco appear before the Commons Public Accounts Committee tomorrow - said the offer was " an important step in setting this matter straight" and restoring trust.

    "The way in which this contract was managed was not consistent with our values or our approach to dealing with customers," he said.

    "Simply put, it was unacceptable and we have apologised to the Ministry of Justice."

    The G4S executive who had been due to appear before the committee - UK and Ireland chief executive Richard Morris - has since departed in a widespread change at the top of the firm.

    The firm said it was ready for further negotiations with the MoJ if the audit concluded that it had overcharged by more than the sum offered.

    Serco has told the NAO it "considers it charged in line with its genuine interpretation of the contract" and that it was "open" with the MoJ throughout.

    It has said it will repay anything it agrees it overcharged.

    An MoJ spokesman said it was still working with the firms and the independent auditors to work out "what the final sum will be".

    "The Secretary of State has been clear: we are determined to secure a refund for the taxpayer," he said
    "We have taken appropriate legal advice and will pursue all possible avenues.

    "This matter is now the subject of a criminal investigation. We are not able to comment further at the current time. We will make a further statement when it is appropriate to do so."

    Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said....."

  10. Grayling has been strangely out of the news for over a week now if you exclude his appeal over Richard the third.
    On the evening of G4S accepting they are guilty of over charging the government he splashes himself all over the papers about a legal challange to repeel fundamental human rights. Bound to be massive news. David Blain couldn't employ a better diversion tactic.


  11. How can they even consider repealing the Human Rights act? It was written by British lawyers in the 50's, following world war 2, so that we would never again witness human rights abuses like those perpetrated by the fascists. It's shameful that Britain then took so long to ratify it. And now Tories want to repeal it? How dare they !

  12. What really gets me about the reporting on the G4S billing-for-tagging saga is that phrase "wrongly considered itself to be contractually entitled to bill for monitoring services when equipment had not been fitted or after it had been removed". Until the hoo-hah was raised there was no consideration by G4S about whether there was an ethical dimension to that billing, almost a sense of 'the MoJ were stupid enough not to tie the contract wording down so they shouldn't complain if we exploit it'.

    As others have pointed out, if the MoJ can't get it right on something which should have been easy to quantify, what confidence can we have in their ability to negotiate a water-tight contract about outcomes which are so much harder to quantify? On past evidence we certainly cannot rely on a profit-driven entity not to exploit poorly written contracts.

    1. Beako,

      Yes you put your finger nicely on the key issue! If you recall G4S responded to Chris Graylings accusations with anger, confident that they'd been complying with the piss-poor drafting of the contract. They knew all along that the information flow from courts and other official sources was woefully-inadequate, hence the attitude 'stuff 'em' keep billing for the dead! Clearly, like many of our clients, they can now see that this was a piece of seriously distorted reasoning.

  13. This is the binary measure !
    It's either off or on ( mainly on) rather than the poor strawman (also to be tagged) with its various hurdles ..... MoJ would never be able to tell if a provider had achieved or not.....

    When Debbie Ryan got into a tweet battle with probation folks perhaps she was right wanting to work within rehab services ......she just didn't realise she could start so soon and so close to home.

  14. Having just read this article in the Ulster Herald, which tickled me a little I confess, I'm left wondering how many of the 12mth and under group soon to come under supervision may choose the same option?

    Man chooses prison over probation

    1278 45 0 0AN Omagh man who declined the option of probation with participation in a substance awareness programme has been jailed for three months.District Judge Bernie Kelly asked Matthew Andrew George Lynch (20) of Edinburgh Park, Omagh several times during the Magistrates Court hearing last week whether he would take part in the course, but each time he declined.Lynch was before the court on the three charges of breaching a probation order he received on August 27 for assault and obstructing police in a drug search.He failed to report to the Probation Service and attend their Substance Awareness Programme that was part of the order.District Judge Bernie Kelly said she thought that as Lynch had engaged with probation in compiling the pre-sentence report, a change was about to take place in his life.However Lynch told the judge he did not want to take part in the course or waste her time.Defence solicitor Michael Fahy said his client understood fully what the alternative would be.Judge Kelly said, “It is unfortunate I am left in this position with a breach of probation. I would be much more minded to give him a chance if you were prepared to attend the substance awareness programme.“He has said he has no interest and I can not force him to do it. I have no alternative despite the fact I had entertained hope he had turned a corner.”Jailing Lynch for three months, she added, “There is no point in flogging a dead horse.”- See more at: http://ulsterherald.com/2013/11/13/man-chooses-prison-over-probation/#sthash.Gbk2Otg7.dpuf

    1. It's an interesting story that makes me wonder if in Northern Ireland consent has to be given to the making of a Probation Order. That requirement was removed some time ago in England and Wales when 'probation' became a sentence in it's own right rather than as previously being an 'alternative' to a sentence.