Thursday, 21 November 2013

Omnishambles Update 27

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and this week is certainly proving the saying to be right. A major bank, recently on the verge of going bust, is found to be under the control of a coke-snorting dodgy Methodist minister who knows nothing about banking and the police regularly fiddle the crime figures in order to keep the government happy. 'Gadget where are you?! 

We live in a country that has a proud history of public service of the highest standard, but we are witnessing it's corruption and destruction on a daily basis by politicians found to be mostly corrupt themselves only fairly recently.

How can it possibly be politically acceptable for our present government to be considering privatising yet more public services when we learn that G4S 'has difficulty knowing the difference between right and wrong?' I like the way the PAC Chair summed things up yesterday and expressed in a tweet I saw:-

Margaret Hodge summarises Serco evidence to : " So what you are saying is, 'we ripped you off in the past but we won't in the future'

We learn that G4S 'has not decided yet if they will bid for any of the probation contracts', but magnanimously they, along with Serco, Capita and Atos, 'would happily agree to greater transparency on government contracts', as reported here in the Guardian:- 

Britain's four biggest outsourcing companies have agreed to respond to demands for greater transparency by allowing the government's auditors access to their books and giving greater leeway to freedom of information requests.
Executives from G4SSercoAtos and Capita, whose firms operate £4bn worth of government contracts, agreed that they should come under further scrutiny from auditors and members of the public.
The concessions, at a session before the public accounts committee, follow months of discussions between committee members and the government over how to increase scrutiny of outsourcing companies to ensure proper spending of the public pound.
At the meeting, the G4S chief executive, Ashley Almanza, also admitted the company had failed to "tell the difference between right and wrong" when dealing with its electronic monitoring contracts. The Serco chairman, Alistair Lyons, said it was "ethically wrong" that his company had also overcharged the Ministry of Justice.
Meanwhile, whilst there is still radio silence as to the position regarding the tense discussions between the unions, MoJ and employers, this is the reality created by Chris Grayling's TR omnishambles and as expressed in a comment yesterday:-
So, of the 17 PO/PSO staff in our team there are 7 off in various stages of collapse & exhaustion; that's not quite 300 cases to be fitted in on top of existing workloads. Our fallen colleagues are reassured wherever possible that they are not dumping on anyone by taking sick leave & that they need to be out of the office until they are deemed strong enough to return. Some of the strongest hearts and minds are being damaged by Grayling's pet project. Its sad. And unnecessary.

Most of those fallen colleagues have been open about being significantly affected by the uncertain future; the indecent haste of, paucity of information about, TR (and that includes NAPO); the unhelpful rumours being shared; the obvious lack of any understanding of what we do by the political clowns who created this unmitigated disaster; the promises of a cuck:oo-land mu:tual; the unrelenting travails of nDelusion, OMYgod-R and escalating caseloads.

It sort of puts that amazing patronising letter from the Chair of London Probation Trust to her staff into context doesn't it?

Finally, we may get to hear what's really going on in London with the Serco Community Payback contract, Grayling's flagship project that paves the way for the TR omnishambles:-

Please be advised that the BBC is now intending to broadcast their story about Community Payback in London this Thursday (21st). Reports are likely to appear from 4pm on Radio Five Live, followed by Newsnight on BBC2 at 10.30pm.

Stay tuned!

PS - Harry Fletcher is already hard at work on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill and tweets:-

2 amendments down tonight. No selloff before a pilot and Probation trusts should be the supervisors of less than 12 months

first amendment = risk register suggests foolhardy to roll out so pilot first.Written brief for MPs now. All to play for!


  1. I find that this blog is not only informative, but often the 'only' source of information to be had. With staff leaving, more and more on sick leave, greater workloads which obviously means longer hours, concerns about the future and job security, and the huge amount of stress that that TR saddles everyone with, and the lack of information available to provide material to write about you still keep plugging away! It's amazing that you find the strength and the disipline to keep on going whilst the walls are crumbling all around you. Indeed you could be described as a 'war reporter' to my mind. You clearly demonstrate the character of people that make probation such a valuable service. I'm not a probation officer myself, infact until 20 years ago I was a regular visitor to probation offices but on the other side of the desk to you.
    I admire what you do greatly Jim, and the service as a whole should be proud of you. Above and beyond the call of duty is the term I think used in the military. Well done!

    1. Here, here!!! Well said


    1. Crime in Wales is likely to rise with communities put at risk if the UK Government proceeds with a plan to partially privatise the probation service, a trade union has warned.

      Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced plans that would see the probation service split into two. Part of it would remain in the public sector, but other elements would be run by private firms.

      Next April 21 new “community rehabilitation companies” will be set up across England and Wales, including one in Wales. A year later they will be sold off to the private sector.

      Their responsibility will be to supervise relatively petty criminals following their release from prison sentences of up to 12 months.

      Glyn Jones, Unison’s regional organiser in Wales responsible for members working in the probation service, said: “We currently have a good effective service which in the main is run efficiently. The proposed changes are being driven by political ideology, not by what is best for the service.

      “Repeat offending is going down, but that will be put in jeopardy if the profit motive takes precedence. We know from experience that when public services are privatised, corners are cut to ensure a return for shareholders. Wages and conditions are cut and there is a heavier staff turnover, leading to a drop in standards.

      “Our members are extremely worried that the changes will result in an increase in crime rates and damage to communities.

      “There is also the serious concern that the most likely companies to take over the companies will be G4S and Serco, both of which are currently under police investigation for overcharging the UK Government over the tagging of offenders. The idea of handing over further lucrative public contracts to such firms is shocking.”

  3. Our team shares a disheartening ratio of colleagues off sick (we're about 20% down - so per'aps we're lucky?). What I'd like to recognise is the fact that our team would not and could not function at all without the phenomenal efforts and invaluable contributions of the admin staff.

    They have been diamonds shining thru all this ideological crap - and many won't have jobs when push comes to shove, they will be the first-line casualties of TR. Its as if they were the reason Grayling's having to introduce this TR programme, to cut the overwhelming costs of our Scale 1 & 2 admin staff.

    Its nowt to do with the myriad of Scale 5 & 6 managerial staff who ponce about with their 'special projects'; or the innumerable secondees of similar salary within NOMS, with travel to & accommodation extras in London and around the country. Presumably they'll be looked after? Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc ad nauseaum.

    Margaret Hodge is good value, isn't she?

  4. Well said re admin staff. I wonder what contributors feel about the 'failure to agree' at the NNC yesterday?

  5. Give it a rest Jim - most of us come on this site to get information the trusts/MOJ can't supply. All we get at the minute is your obsession with G4S and Serco. If you're no longer in the know then say so and shut the f**k up. TR is happening

    1. If Serco and G4S don't or can't bid Grayling has a massive problem. I read this blog because commentators post whatever little scraps of information they can find and there seems to be very little of that about. Maybe you could direct everyone somewhere else where they can get better information?
      I'm pretty sure Jim is under no obligation to post anything and free to post and discuss whatever he so wishes to.
      I'm sorry you don't like what you read at the moment, but you don't have to read it do you?
      Posting nasty comments because you don't like something isn't very helpful or I suggest very dignified.

    2. Immediate response to above offensive statement. Jim doesn't need me to defend him I'm sure. I have never met Jim, I am an ex PO of 17 years service, been out many years now. I am stunned at your attitude. Here's why (quite apart from the obvious requirement that any decent person would object to anyone telling someone else to 'shut the f*ck up" in a public forum). I can understand that getting utterly frustrated with the insanity of the TR imposition can drive any of us to the edge. But “Shut the f*ck up” and hurling accusations of “obsessions” is not, in my view, and with respect, justifiable or appropriate.
      1 I hope Jim won't mind me saying that he sees that there is a bigger picture than what is happening in the devilish detail of what's happening between Trusts and MOJ. A lot more. Because:
      2: If G4S and Serco are out of the game, there is almost no game left. There will almost certainly be another government U Turn. (Sorry. 'policy re-evaluation to show the coalition's continued commitment to deliver value' (read 'get re-elected').
      3: Most people in the public do not know what you or any other PO does. Deal with it. Get over it. I still proudly tell people I was a PO, and educated people look at me blankly. But...
      3: Everyone has heard of G4S, Serco, capita etc. And, everyone has now heard of rev Jim Flowers, He's all over the news, tv, radio, broadsheet, tabloid (that's important), web... etc. Everywhere? Why?
      4: Because he's a public scandal. The Flowers story involves most of the great drivers of drama, sex, money and power. Oh yes and let's not forget political and religious hypocrisy and duplicity. Everyone knows what they are. People read and write novels about stories like his, they don't make cracking TV BAFTA winning dramas about meetings between the MoJ and a Probation Trust. They don't know (or care) what Oasys is, or Delius (apart from his music), or a PSR, and on and on and on ad nauseam. 
      5: Flowers is not just a scandal, his story is a PUBLIC scandal. that's a massive difference. His actual situation is EXACTLY the same as it was months ago. The difference is that now it is public.
      6: Back now to point 3 above. If G4S, Serco et al fail, then TR is politically terminally mortally wounded. This won't be sorted in some meeting between a Trust and the MoJ. Monitoring that is like checking the pulse of a dead horse. It will only fail for political reasons. G4S and /or Serco being prosecuted by the SFO will change the water these TR fish swim in. Change it enough the TR fish would die.

      Jim, please continue. Thank you.

    3. No-one forces you to read this site. Chances are G4S or Serco will be your next employer, unless you already represent one or both. These are toxic companies that few would choose to work for. Any light shone on the companies dishonest and corrupt practices will hopefully doom them to failure.
      3. Jim's single handed, heroic efforts here should be applauded. Keep it going Jim.

    4. Anon at 10:05,

      Thanks for raising several important issues.

      Your anger and irritation is understandable, but I can't agree about my over-doing the stuff on Serco and G4S. Both companies are absolutely vital to the success of TR and therefore it's entirely appropriate in my view to encourage as much opprobrium as possible to befall each of them.

      Each must either feel it's not worth trying to bid for probation work, or if they do, make sure that the government does not feel able to allow it.

      Finally, you may feel that TR is happening, but I'm extremely fortunate that people tell me things via this blog and which indicate that there are several moves afoot that might yet scupper the whole thing. Writing about such matters at this stage would not help the cause though, and I don't know about you, but I intend trying to win this battle.



    5. Anon at 10:05 - if you genuinely are a member of Probation staff, I would gently suggest you're in the wrong job if you feel the need to make comments like that.

  6. Don't feed or listen to the trolls! They are the inevitable consequence of personal frustration and inadequacies!

    Jim - you're doing great work, keep it up!

  7. So that's two 'failures to agree' - sorry need to keep my dark sense of humour about me to keep sane - has anyone got any views re NNC talks breaking down?

  8. Question from GCSE Paper in 'The Bleeding Obvious' (© B Fawlty):
    What would they do to me if I owed the taxman £23,000,000 for not giving a true account of my circumstances?
    Answers on a postcard...

    1. How much lube have you got?