Sunday, 24 November 2013

Reasons to be Positive

Trying to keep tabs on this whole TR omnishambles is not easy and with some Trusts moving to issue re-assignment letters, understandably there is widespread confusion, dismay and anger. But despite all the waves of negativity, I feel the need to try and take stock of the positive and a good place to start is provided by Mike Guilfoyle and his summary following a successful meeting in London on Friday. This is the gist of what he posted recently on here:-

Greater London Napo branch meeting yesterday...packed room heard from John McDonell MP, Frances Crook & Napo Assistant General Secretary... clearly much anxiety, anger & uncertainty around pending changes ..but some salient points...

1. Parliamentary Human Rights Committee critical report on Offender Rehabilitation Bill this week..

2. Grayling's forced decision NOT to pursue privatisation of 3 prisons..

3. Labour front bench mounting opposition to TR - JM stated that until 3 days before debate on TR - Labour had planned to abstain...change of approach based on efficacy & evidence of TR Omnishambles.. Now commitment to 'restore' Probation Service!

4. Newsnight programme - Serco/LPT (not barnstorming!) but indicative of changing popular mood on outsourcing.. Public Accounts Committee - excoriate-change-gentle grilling of privateers..

5. Egregious examples of faltering outsourcing -Serco-Health- Atos -Disability...that appear to have seen shift of gear & mobilised resistance..

6. Liberal Democrats - approaches made to NC & dawning appreciation that TR could begin to unravel & associated risk to credibility pre-election..

7. Sheer ineptitude of MoJ - at this weeks 'negotiations' Napo reps requested for the ** time - copy of Equality Impact Assessment - document provided at the 11 th hr.. when queried - MoJ reps - 'Grayling had this all the time, but did not want to share it!!!!

8. Unison (belatedly) have mustered support for mandate for industrial action...

9. 2 Amendments to Offender Rehabilitation Bill - Harry Fletcher using his 'contacts' to max impact...

10. 'Soft' Tory MP's - behind the scenes some mounting concerns at the implications on marginals .. if public safety fears become more pronounced..

11. Frances Crook invited colleagues to send any scraps of info' to her that she might put out to media that would have quick fire impact..

12. If timetable can be stalled due to proposed actions & comments from tob table - already speculation that slippage to 'end of year '- 2014 from MoJ sources.. with electoral buffer - 6 months - TR could be scuppered??

Appreciate that his is brief snapshot from one meeting & having spent 20 yrs as a PO - I do not underestimate that toil & moil ' that colleagues are having to endure....

But the resounding message from MP's + Gen Sec... ' The Fight is still very much 'on' ..

Hope this assists..

In relation to point 1, a reader has kindly pointed us in the direction of the report and identified some particularly salient points:-

12. We are not satisfied with the information and analysis provided by the Government in relation to the Bill's compatibility with other relevant international standards. We expect human rights memoranda to go beyond assertions that all relevant human rights obligations have been considered, and we repeat our general recommendation that Departments should provide detailed information explaining why the Government is satisfied about the compatibility of a Bill with relevant international human rights obligations, not just the ECHR, in their human rights memoranda.

We are disappointed that we did not receive any additional information from the Department about the Government's amendment on women offenders, and we repeat our general recommendation that Departments should, as good practice, provide us with a supplementary human rights memorandum on Government amendments with significant human rights implications, such as the Government amendment relating to women offenders in this Bill.

18. On 19 November 2012, the Prime Minister announced that the Government is "calling time on equality impact assessments".[41] However, the legal duty established in Brown remains for public authorities to demonstrate that they have had 'due regard' to their equality obligations.

30. The provision of information by the Government in relation to its consideration of the Bill's impact on protected groups has been piecemeal, lacking in detail, and has been produced only in response to parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill and the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. This does not provide much reassurance that the Government has properly complied with its equality duty in the formulation of the policy.

Following a period of radio silence, I notice that Joe Kuipers, Chair of the Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, has published another blog post and as usual, it makes for very interesting reading. First off, he highlights a key message contained in the ministerial announcement regarding the decision not to hand the three South Yorkshire prisons over to Serco:-
All of the South Yorkshire prisons will immediately become part of the ongoing process of applying a new public sector benchmark. This process is delivering swift reforms and impressive savings across the public sector prison estate. All HM Prison Service managed prisons are significantly reducing unit costs, improving outcomes and delivering value for money for the taxpayer. 
Although making a point about the prison service, I agree it is just as significant a message for the probation service and will be extremely relevant if any plan 'B' is forthcoming. He goes on to quote from an e-mail sent by the ASPT board to MoJ/Noms and which gives an indication of how one Trust continues to play things quite a bit differently:-
"Sally, Annette and I listened intently to, and noted, the teleconference on 13 November. We have also looked carefully at the letters from Michael Spurr of the same date and that from Colin of the 15th. Yesterday, the 21st, at our Board meeting the Board was fully briefed by Sally and Anne to consider (over a period of some 2 hours) the information and to reach a view about the next steps for our Trust. We noted in particular the request that Trust Boards now agree to impose the processes and conditions of transfer as set out in Michael's letter. In the teleconference Michael also offered the option of a mandatory contract variation to achieve the same.The other key information received was from the PA (after this was requested) that on the 20th no agreement was reached on some outstanding matters and that now, from the MoJ perspective, there was no more time for further negotiations. 
Our Board exercises its duty as a good and responsible employer and agreed that we faced three options in the light of the current position:
  • to agree to voluntarily impose the current arrangements, despite needing clarification on a number of matters;
  • to seek further clarification on a number of matters where there remains lack of certainty;
  • to seek a contract variation requiring the Board to fully implement the arrangements.
In considering the issues and reporting on our decisions the Board makes it absolutely clear that it is not the Board’s intention to delay or frustrate the Transforming Rehabilitation process or to act against its contractual obligations. In fact, we have responded fully to all requests made and are in regular communication with the TR Transition team. Any decision taken by the Board, as the employer, about these issues is based entirely on the Board being satisfied that it is acting properly.

The Board took into account the fact that the legal advice on the staff transfer has been taken by the Ministry of Justice and as such is ‘privileged’ advice which has not been shared with Trusts who are the employers of staff and that there still remained a number of issues that are subject to further clarification which staff need in order to make informed decisions. Although Colin's letter offers indemnity Board members rightly also have to consider personal reputational implications.

In light of the above, the Board agreed unanimously that the right thing to do was for the Trust Board to await instruction by MOJ / NOMS in terms of a mandatory contract variation being issued. This is consistent with the whole exit process being managed through the contract, as has been previously agreed, and it clearly places the responsibility for the decision to transfer staff to either the CRC or NPS with NOMS / MoJ."

He ends by making this extremely interesting observation on the whole shenanigans:-

As we await the announcements of the new CRC and Divisional NPS leads, at our Board meetings we are careful to declare any potential conflicts of interest. Neither the CEO nor I have anything to declare that might interfere with reaching unimpeded decisions. We struggle to understand how colleagues hoping to or actually moving to new jobs in the new world can balance a natural concern about their futures with absolute impartiality as the professional advisers to probation Trust Boards?

PS - Talk about havin a laugh - just noticed this tweet from Debbie Ryan yesterday - 

NAPO - would you like to help shape the G4S TR bid? Work together to shape the model????


  1. The tide must continue to turn against the likes of Serco
    Let's see Britain taking public services back from Serco and G4S – so they can be run properly

  2. Serco is a company in trouble. Under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over the electronic tagging scandal, its chief executive jumped ship last month, and last night it jettisoned its UK boss. Today, it was ditched as a contender to run three prisons in Yorkshire.

    As far as I am concerned these corporate headaches could not have happened to a more deserving case.

    But I am not complacent. While there are welcome signs the tide is slowly turning against the likes of Serco – government auditors are probing the role of private companies in running an increasing number of our public services, and their bosses faced MPs this week – the government is still committed to outsourcing, writing contracts in indelible ink.

    Despite G4S's Olympics security fiasco and the revelations about overcharging for tagging offenders, Francis Maude, the cabinet office minister, is clear that he wants the companies "to emerge renewed and stronger". How many more chances can such companies be given before we say: do you know what, you have failed even on your own terms; the party is over?

    But this is one of the central problems of privatisation. There is no real risk. The bosses claim the risks they take are reputational and financial, citing share prices and the chances of winning future contracts. This is nonsense. In its final analysis of the Olympics saga, G4S described the way it was bailed out by the public sector as "successful". Now it has been handed a contract for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
    Time and time again, privatisation – which now comes in many guises – is shown to be less efficient and more costly, and without a genuine transfer of risk. The east coast mainline rail franchise, the upgrade of London's underground and even translation services in courts, were all examples of private sector failure bailed out by taxpayers.

    And it has happened without any public debate. We were never asked if we wanted hundreds of billions of pounds worth of our public services handed to private companies so they could make vast profits from them.

    Not only are these profits obscene, so is executive pay. A few years ago, some of our members who work for Capita, campaigning for a wage they could live on, were handing out leaflets outside the company's headquarters when the chief executive, Paul Pindar, strolled in. After reading a leaflet, he took umbrage at a claim about his eye-watering pay and perks package and went into the building to fetch his payslip, which he then brandished in front of these low-paid workers to prove he earned "only" £14,700 a week – what they were paid for a full year.

    The government has committed to paying the living wage to its own staff, but there is no requirement on its contractors to do the same, and many still refuse to do so. This is what we expect from multinationals, but it is an abdication of responsibility by ministers, particularly given the drive to privatise more and more.

    So I welcome the fact a spotlight is now being trained on Serco, G4S, Capita and others. The National Audit Office is concerned that some may be "too big to fail". I agree, but I would go further and say let them fail, and let us bring these services back into the public sector where they can be properly run, with the books fully scrutinised, without hiding behind bogus "commercial confidentiality", and fully accountable to the people whose taxes pay for them.

    For once, I half-agreed with Maude when he wrote this week that "public services are too important to too many people" – but I only half-agreed because he went on to say, "to be allowed to be the monopoly of the public sector". Now by "people", he presumably means shareholders, because there is no public interest in propping up the troubled Serco and the oligopoly of which it is a part.

    Mark Serwotka

  3. This may be a daft question, but I'm thinking about time scales and things that may have an impact on delaying TR. But how long is it likely to take to decide which service users will be transfered to the CRC companies. As the 12mth and under will now be subject to supervision I assume they may require a more comprehensive risk assessment then they had before? I know the NPC will remain responsible for risk assessments, but I am curious if the MoJ has calculated for the time it will take to decide which service users are moved over to CRC's?

    1. To clarify my thinking a bit on my question above. Service users can't be transfered over until a CRC is operational. The government will pay for services to their contractors usually in about 7 days from being billed. However, the payments to the subcontractors from the main primes is usually between 30 to 40 days. If the feed to the subcontractors is slow then they may not be able to remain operational for more then a couple of months with very little income to pay overheads and staff.

    2. Just one of many hundreds of reasons why it's called an omnishambles. Jow Kuipers doesn't think every client will be in the right place until 2015

    3. Fat finger - should be Joe Kuipers of course.

  4. Jeremy Corbyn MP Just told BBC R5 Live that Grayling cancelling Prison privatisation should be followed by keeping Probation Service public.

  5. DAILY MAIL COMMENT: The troubling rise of a remote political class.

    The plan to allow ministers to hire up to ten new political aides each – on civil service contracts – is deeply troubling for transparency and democracy.

    The greatest danger of all is that ministers will turn their departments into finishing schools for prospective MPs plucked straight from university.
    Already, the upper echelons of all our major parties are stuffed with former policy wonks who have never had a proper job.

    The last thing Britain needs is yet more professional politicians whose only experience of life is prowling the privileged, out-of-touch corridors of Westminster.

    It’s not as if there is any evidence that having more political advisers – Nick Clegg has 19 – makes for better government.

    Read more:

  6. Even after the Porridge treatment, don't underestimate Serco's political risk.

    With an election coming up, ministers might not see much political upside in letting contracts to Serco - or G4S

    Read more:

    1. By now, Serco’s dwindling bunch of managers must really know what it feels like to be Norman Stanley Fletcher. “What you in for?”, the comedy lag was asked. His lugubrious reply? “Got caught.”
      Serco’s been doing its own version of corporate porridge ever since it got rumbled in July as one of two outsourcing companies, alongside G4S, that had been over-charging for tagging criminals.
      Since then, it’s been barred from winning any new central Government contracts – already a decent penalty given they accounted for around £1.2bn of last year’s £4.9bn revenues. And that’s before the £1.3bn that’s gone missing from the company’s market value, not to mention the chief executive and UK boss who have gone missing from the company.
      Now, appropriately enough, Serco’s also lost the chance to run three South Yorkshire prisons, a 15-year contract worth £25m-£30m annually, where it was the sole bidder.
      Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has come to the conclusion he’s better off leaving them in public hands. And who can blame him?

      The only real surprise is that it took him so long, given the obvious comedy value of seeing the Secretary of State letting a multi-million pound prisons management contract to a company itself being crawled over by the Serious Fraud Office.
      That said, both Serco and G4S will eventually be brought back into the fold. Indeed, it’s finally dawning on the Coalition that it can’t give them the full thumbscrews treatment because it needs a competitive outsourcing market.
      So much stuff is outsourced nowadays – from ministries’ back-office admin systems to the nuclear weapons facility at Aldermanston – that there’s no going back. And civil servants have long proved they’ll make a bigger hash of it anyway.
      Take out Serco and G4S and the likes of Capita and Babcock would be a shoo-in on some contracts – a recipe for poor value in these deficit-cutting times.
      But that’s not to say there’s not big political risk around the two current offenders. For starters, the Cabinet Office review and PwC audit of their existing Government contracts could turn up something nasty – as could the SFO. And anyway there’s an election coming up.
      Ministers might not see much political upside, say, in handing Serco an extension on its Northern Rail train franchise or allowing it to retain its contract for RAF Flyingdales, in the face of competition from the better behaved Babcock.
      Much more likely is the pair get let out on parole. Who gets the outsourced tagging contract is harder to predict.

  7. Harry Fletcher has tweeted earlier that an Amendment to ban firms under investigation for fraud to bid for Probation work to be tabled this week.

    1. Its hard to find relative news on a sunday evening, so I'm really pleased to discover this short video. Its very informative and interesting I think. A must watch.

    2. I'm going to get the book as a christmas present for Grayling!

  8. Jim,
    I also chuckled greatly at the comments on Debbie Ryans Twitter feed - she has been getting quite a bit of stick!!
    However like you the lines that made me laugh out loud ( in a Midlands shopping centre) was regarding the invitation the shape the future "NAPO - would you like to help shape the G4S TR bid? Work together to shape the model????" as you quoted( and similar others.
    Now the TR omnishambles is moving along "at pace" but it was not too long ago that Chris Grayling was explaining that the future was about
    "innovation" about new providers with new ideas , changing the way probation works......So why is the "leading" provider asking for the ideas of the incumbents????
    Clearly Debbie Ryan and G4S , as we have always known, HAVE NO IDEA about the future of the service they intend to provide !!!
    Whether as an off the cuff "tweet"or a genuine request for help , the truth is coming out , that the multi nationals bid for work irrespective of any clear knowledge of the details but only of the money.
    So much for innovation , they are certainly now on the back foot ....and this TR is proving more difficult to do than they first anticipated!!

  9. Probation changes will make real mess of local crime partnerships .Wasteful and in case of YOTs, incomprehensible.


  11. A powerful group of MPs will today push top civil servants to agree to sweeping reforms of how Government contracts are run by the private sector following headline-grabbing failures at outsourcing giants Serco and G4S.

    Margaret Hodge, the Public Accounts Committee chairman, wants to see financial information on all Government contracts revealed under what is known as open-book accounting. The former Labour minister is also demanding that the National Audit Office has full access to contractual and financial details of these deals, which should also be subject to greater public disclosure under Freedom of Information laws.

    Stephen Kelly and Bill Crothers, chief operating officer and chief procurement officer respectively at the Cabinet Office, will face the committee this afternoon. They will be joined by top Ministry of Defence civil servants who could be questioned over the semi-privatisation of the £14bn agency that buys tanks and guns. Plans to let the private sector run such a sensitive part of national security have been widely criticised and the process is on the brink of collapse after one of only two bidders pulled out last week.

    Government contracts are under scrutiny after outsourcing giant Serco and security group G4S overcharged the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds on a contract to electronically tag criminals. It emerged in the summer that 3,000 offenders they had charged for were living abroad, in custody or dead. G4S admitted last week it had overcharged the taxpayer by £24m for tagging.

    On the same day, the Public Accounts Committee secured agreements from Serco and G4S broadly to back the proposed reforms, concessions it is not thought to have been expecting. Executives at IT provider Atos and Capita, which recently won a contract to manage enquiry lines for the Department for Work and Pensions, also suggested they were relaxed about making Government contracts less obscured from public examination. Those four groups hold Government contracts worth £6.6bn last year. The Capita chief executive Paul Pindar said he had “no problem whatsoever” with open book contracts. Serco chairman Alastair Lyons claimed he would be “completely happy to co-operate with FOI being extended to our own contracts”.
    However, these pledges were overshadowed by the G4S chief executive Ashley Almanza apologising for his company’s role in the tagging scandal and Mr Lyons conceding that Serco’s actions had been “ethically wrong”.

    The scrutiny facing the outsourcing industry coincides with a period of great management change. Long-serving Mr Pindar announced last week he will leave Capita by the end of February after 22 years as managing director and chief executive. Mr Almanza is still getting to grips with G4S.

    He replaced Nick Buckles, whose reputation was damaged following the London Olympics security fiasco, which cost it £70m. Serco is hunting for a new boss after the departure of Christopher Hyman.