Friday, 29 November 2013

Runners and Riders

We were told yesterday in a typically-upbeat MoJ press release that were only 35 bidders wanting to go head-to-head next year to win a share of 'coveted' rehabilitation contracts across England and Wales.

Who are Chris Grayling's spin doctor's trying to kid using language like 'coveted'? Seeing as there's only 21 prime contracts, I don't call 35 bidders demonstrating a huge amount of interest in the whole omnishambles and it will be interesting to see just how many of the 35 runners drop out of the race before the winning post is even in sight.

I notice that a keen contributor to this blog has had a stab at compiling a list of the likely suspects, using a number of public information sources, nouse and revisions submitted by other readers. It would indeed be helpful to try and flush the blighters out at an early stage so that we can closely scrutinise their track records, together with what ever relevant experience they intend bringing to the rehabilitation party. 

Here's a first stab then at trying to compile a list of the 35 contenders for the 21 prime contracts. It's highly likely to be inaccurate and incomplete (I seem to have too many mutuals), so please feel free to suggest amendments, groupings, fancy trading names, etc etc:- 

1. Working Links
2. Interserve
3. Ingeus
4. G4S

5. Seetec
6. Employment and Skills Group 
7. Serco
8. EOS
9. Pertemps People Development Groups 
10. Newcastle College
11. The Rehab Group
12. Prospect Services 
13. Avanta 
14. Maximus
15. Sodexho
16. Capita
17. A4E
18. Homegroup
19. Atos
20. Mitie
21. Durham Tees Valley Mutual 
22. Kent, Surrey Sussex A4E mutual
23. Shaw Trust 
24. Geo/Delta York, Humberside, Lincolnshire mutual
25. Manchester Mutual
26. Innovo Lancashire, Cumbria, Manchester College Mutual 
27. West Yorkshire, Prospects mutual

28. Leicestershire, Stonham mutual
29. West Mercia, Warkwickshire, Stonham mutual
30. Merseyside mutual
31. Steria
32. St Giles
33. Nacro
34. Carillion
35. Babcock

36. Veolia
37. CRI - Crime Reduction Initiative

This is what shadow justice minister Jenny Chapman MP has to say on the Left Foot Forward website when asking:-

Would you hand supervision of offenders to companies with no experience of providing probation services?

Supervision of the majority of offenders in the community will be handed over to companies with no experience of providing probation services, some of which are themselves currently subject to criminal investigation for fraud.

 Probation reform needs to be piloted so that mistakes can be put right. But there has been no piloting, no evaluation and no effort to check if this actually works, how well it works, or how it could work better. Instead the justice secretary has given us a personal assurance that he just ‘believes’ this is the right way to go. 
Although the government insists that companies will be paid only for what works, the majority of the cost will be paid up front regardless of performance. The government still do not know how expensive the new arrangements will be. The Ministry of Justice is about to sign the tax payer up to contracts worth 450 million lasting seven to 10 years without trialling the new arrangements. This isn’t just irresponsible, it’s downright risky.
Reoffending rates in this country are too high, with 46 per cent of criminals reoffending after release; but those supervised by Probation officers have a much lower chance of reoffending. Probation is a tough job that prevents crime and protects the public.
The justice secretary assures the public that only low and medium risk offenders will be supervised by the new providers. What he knows but doesn’t say is that low and medium risk offenders include those who have committed burglary, violence against the person, sexual assault, domestic violence and more. This is a high risk strategy that the government’s own assessment predicts will result in a drop in performance.
The plans will see the service broken up. When risk quickly escalates the offender will have to be passed between providers. This creates unnecessary bureaucracy, delay and confusion at exactly the moment when an offender poses the highest risk of harm.
The secretary of state wants to complete the sale of Probation services by May 2015. He knows no new government would contemplate pursuing such a dangerous initiative.
This is not an informed practical deadline, but a political cut-off point. His timetable has been described by an ex-chief inspector of prisons as ‘bearing no relation to practical reality’, while the chairs of at least three Probation Trust Boards have written to the secretary of state individually to warn him that he must slow down or risk serious public protection failures.
Those implementing the reforms do not ‘just believe’.
The House of Lords voted to stop the justice’s secretary half-baked plans, and Labour MPs want to do the same when the Offender Rehabilitation Bill reaches committee stage today.
With proper piloting and a realistic timetable, in collaboration with experienced practitioners, we could devise a new probation system that would supervise all offenders well and cut crime as well as costs. The government is wrong to miss that opportunity.
It's also fascinating to hear that the government's u-turn on a u-turn in relation to plain cigarette packaging is because of a need to be guided by 'evidence-based research'. But the same logic does not apply to putting the public at risk with the TR omnishambles.
Meanwhile I notice tailgunner has helpfully provided another transmission over on the Napo forum pages:-

The first thing to say is that Napo advice is NOT to not return EoI letters. Last week, Napo advised to wait for further advice which was issued yesterday - to be found elsewhere. In essence, the advice is to return the letters but at the same time a). Register a grievance on the basis that you're being asked to engage with a process that is not agreed in the NNC and which doesn't provide you with sufficient information to make an informed decision. And then b). Return said letter with a covering note that says it's done under duress - that you don't agree or accept the process and reserve your right to return to the matter in other fora. This is a bit like agreeing to an unacceptable variation to contract because you want to retain your job, but making it clear that you don't really agree with it and may take further action is respect of its unreasonableness. For automatic assignees, the advice is similar, if you don't like it, ask the basis on which the assignment has been made, consider a grievance, write explaining that you do not agree with the process and consider an appeal on the grounds provided.

Let's be honest, this is all aimed at slowing the process down and hopefully de-railing it. This may cause friction between staff and their employers, but let us all remember that we are being forced into this position by somebody up there who is mis-using the power at his disposal. So remember at whose doorstep responsibility for all this grief lies.

UNISON has advised its members essentially to do b) but not a). Nothing wrong with having slightly different tactics. The direction of travel is the same. To oppose and seek to scupper the whacky TR plan.

It would seem that at the Napo NEC yesterday there was firm resolve to continue the fight. It isn't possible to report the discussions in detail since walls have ears and websites have eyes on them - some perhaps to be found in Petty France. There might not be fighting on the beaches, but there will be stiff resistance in the streets of London, including PF, and right across the land. And why not? Probation has a proud history stretching back over more than a century. It has quietly and effectively been rehabilitating generations of individuals who have, through their offending, excluded themselves from law abiding communities. We have engineered reintegration, reduced exclusion and reduced re-offending. TR threatens the continuity of this mission. As such it both poses a risk to public protection as well as the very existence of a high performing public service.

It is to be hoped that WingCo G might one day be successfully re-integrated into the community. Sometimes individuals present particularly entrenched patterns of anti-social behaviour. The thing about Probation is that it never gives up on individuals however heinous their offending.   

Finally, I'm grateful for a reader pointing me in the direction of this cartoon that shows even the Americans are beginning to question what's happening.


  1. I trawl the web daily looking at 'outsourcing news'. Its quite shocking really as you soon discover they all have fingers in each others pies. But what is or should be shocking to our polititions is that in every country where there's oppossition to some form of outsourcing of public services the finger points to Britain with the cry of look whats happened to them. We are I feel being watched by the world as we keep on giving these huge outsourcers government contracts. To continue to do so is just committing ecconomic and social suicide.
    These comments cut from the Western Austraila (where they also enjoy robbery from outsourcers) makes my point well I feel.

    ''Under the cover of 'Big Society' the British government cut thousands of public sector jobs, transferred significant amounts of work to the private sector and slashed social expenditure under the misleading premise of community empowerment.''These actions prolonged the recession and increased debt in the United Kingdom.''The CPSU cautioned against making government ''someone else's problem''.''Making the work of government someone else's problem does not make the challenges and opportunities we face as a society disappear,'' the submission reads.''Governments are elected to fulfil obligations to the community, and accordingly they should accept that responsibility.''

  2. Each bidder can bid for up to 5 contracts - so 35 for 21 could turn out to be plenty enough in the MOJs terms.

    that shadow minister Jenny Chapman who was excellent on Tuesday, seemed to have other business yesterday, when I checked in on the ORB Committee, Andy Slaughter from Hammersmith was leading for the opposition with impressive support from Elfyn Llwyd, who seemed like the defence solicitors I remember of old, striving with all earnestness for a 'hopeless case' because in all humanity they deserve a chance and not to suffer for all of societies ills, whatever they may have done before.

    I do not think it is over, I think 'they' can lose through being tied up in the details 'they' have not worked out before they began attempting to force 'us' (well those of you working in probation) to activate their less than quarter baked plans, with some of the ingredients almost inedible and putrid before they were put into the over complicated concoction, which might look OK but satisfy no one and harm many once attempts are made to actually eat it.

    Andrew Hatton

  3. Oh you cynic Jim! 35 bids for contracts clearly, as Grayling said yesterday, indicate that the market for government contracts is healthy. Or to put it another way, companies who like to make money remain interested in the chance of making money. In other news, scientists have obtained definitive proof that bears do defecate in wooded areas.

  4. "What does Grayling care about?"

    An excellent summation - with one response so far, add yours ...?

    Andrew Hatton

  5. Another one for the list:

    CRI - crime reduction initiative

    A rather large charity with possibly the only ethos that is on par with probation, st Giles etc

  6. Durham Tees Valley's mutual is being called ARCC ( ! ) and appears to be heavily supported by the local authorities and rumoured to be underpinnned by a philanthropic ( RICH) individual. So that's all right then......

    1. Reg Vardy car salesman!

  7. my money's on wonga? and don't get too starry eyed about CRI...

  8. Any one organisation is only allowed 25% of the contracts and that includes subcontracts. Whoever wins London will not be allowed anything else.

    And do me a favour, CRI are an appallingly predatory charity. I can't speak for the other mutuals but I know Innovo who are bidding for Merseyside & Cumbria/Lancs have the same values as probation as it's probation led

    It's not all bad

    But mainly it's shit

    1. I can confirm the approach of CRI because I was sat with a representative (former PO) at an MoJ consultation event and he said they would 'get rid of probation staff asap' as they would be far too expensive. Nice.

  9. take it easy... innovo are being bankrolled by the manchester college, an international organisation with considerable and existing moj links, i.e the prisoner ete and qualifications contracts. Look what happened to other manchester home-grown icons when they got too ambitious: the co-op bank, factory records, the hacienda and the manchester guardian. TMC must be doing ok to be able to show a bank balance of several £M's, and that won't have fallen out of a xmas cracker.

  10. Maximus are good with victim liaison after all they are
    "Husband to a murdered wife, father to a murdered son (they will) Have their revenge"

  11. Merseyside are getting their letters next week.

  12. Have I Got News For You ! Brilliant show tonight, having a go at Serco ! Brilliant ! Perhaps the tide is starting to turn now the nation is laughing at their business practises...Makes Grayling look pretty thick to be so keen on them.....

  13. We all received our letters in Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust today. ..what a soul destroying way to end what has already been a manic and tiresome week.

  14. Can anyone answer this please ? If the Trust Boards fulfil similar functions to Boards of other companies, are the individual board members liable in any way for the decisions being taken ? I really mean is there any personal liability? When the Trusts are 'disbanded', who carries the legacy liability ? I just think we have been really let down by our Trust and do not want the board members to quietly disappear as they should be held accountable for this mess. Can anyone else see what I am getting at ?

    1. I think this is what the admirable Joe Kuipers has been saying on his blog

    2. "Trust Board meetings are held approximately every 6 weeks and members of the public are welcome to attend. Please see below for the dates of forthcoming meetings"

      Would anyone know what stops us going to Trust board meetings

  15. Warwickshire get their letters of expression on Friday. I assume, we will have 2 weeks to respond... Great timing, kind of like a Christmas bonus. What a depressing start to the New Year it will be

  16. Devon & Cornwall's letters not even being sent out until 16th December - probably because all the data on nDelius is crap and no-one really knows what our caseloads are like. Merry Christmas, everybody!


    1. Cutting reoffending in Britain is a big ask but Sarah Payne thinks that the proposed reforms to prisons and probation services provide an opportunity to change lives for the better.

      The newly appointed director of Wales' National Offender Management Service, part of the new National Probation Service, says that changes to Britain's probation services should nurture collaborative working to get to the root cause of reoffending.

      "It makes great sense to work with our partners – local authorities, social services, health boards, chief constables and police and crime commissioners – at a national and local level," she says. "My new role affords the opportunity to join up services even more along the offender journey."

      The new system, which aims to reduce what the Ministry of Justice describes as Britain's stubbornly high reoffending rates, will come into force in April 2014. Some probation reforms, such as the proposed outsourcing of probation services to charities and private companies, have proved controversial.

      Prisoners in England and Wales have committed an average of 41 previous offences, a survey carried out by the Ministry of Justice found. Figures released in 2010 show reconviction rates for prisoners top 70% in fourteen prisons in England and Wales.

      Payne says her appointment acknowledges the differences between how offender services are delivered in England compared with in a devolved administration. "Virtually all of the services required to help get people out of offending are devolved in Wales," she says. "In England, the decisions as to how services are run feed down from Westminster, but in Wales they come down from the Assembly."

      "I think people who have the right expertise should get involved in this. Reoffending is a complex societal issue; offenders will muck up, they will get things wrong, but we must not give up. It is a complex thing and needs a lot of people to give it the attention it deserves."

      She is looking forward to working alongside Colin Allars, recently appointed director of the National Probation Service in England.

    2. Reforms announced this year by the justice secretary Chris Grayling include controversial proposals to transfer probation services to private companies such as G4S and Serco, payment-by-results schemes for partners working to reduce reoffending, and a network of resettlement prisons closer to offenders' communities.

      Thousands of probation officers took part in a strike on 5 November organised by the National Association of Probation Officers over the proposals. Payne says she recognises the anxieties of probation staff, and stressed that many of the staff currently working in probation will be working in the new system from April 2014.

      Payne started working in probation in December 2010 when she took up the post of chief executive of the Wales Probation Trust. The Wales Probation Trust was formed in April 2010 following the merger of four smaller probation areas in the country.

      The trust is the third largest of 35 offender-management organisations in Britain. Probation trusts supervise offenders over the age of 18 who are given a community order by the courts or are released from prison on licence.

      Before working in probation, Payne was chief executive of the YWCA England and Wales, a charity that helped more than 11,000 women and girls a year. This experience gave her a broader perspective on what contribution different organisations can make to the reducing reoffending agenda, she says. "I absolutely loved it, not least because prior to then most of my career had been in men's prisons."

      Payne was deputy governor of HMP Pentonville and governor of Bullingdon and Oxford prisons, before becoming the area manager of the 12 prisons in Thames Valley and Hampshire.

      As head of a dispersed organisation, she says she learned to be a more enabling and inclusive manager and assembled a team with different skills. "When you have a broader span of experiences you get a better insight into what good looks like. You get bolder in tackling things you really think need tackling."

      She began her career at HM Prison Holloway, which was "a bit of a shock to the system for a modern languages graduate". A university trip to a local prison was "a bit of a lightbulb moment", and a strong sense of social justice and public service drove her to join the graduate scheme and pursue a career working with offenders.

      "My parents didn't quite understand why the daughter they thought was particularly gifted for modern languages wanted to be in a custodial setting though," she adds.

  18. Innovo and Manchester College are going 50/50 though. When innovo were approached by CRI they wanted 85%. The innovo/Manchester college model is based on no director dividends and all profits being back into staff or the community

    1. please can you say more about this 50:50 split? where have the made-up Innovo got their hands on £15M? I would guess that's about half of the cost of the Merseyside & Lancs/Cumbria bids. And we have to factor in the duration of the contracts; 7 years. When the Innovo "team" parachuted into our office in a Milk Tray style, they said not a thing about directors or where profits would go - they declared it "too early to comment. We have a memorandum of understanding (NB no contract as yet). Its commercially sensitive, you'll just have to trust us." That much misused word "trust" again.


    1. THE leader of Colchester Council’s Labour group has resigned as vice chairman of Essex Probation over planned reforms.

      Tim Young, a boardmember for nearly a decade, is resigning in protest over the Government’s privatisation plan He said: “It breaks my heart to resign from the board of Essex Probation, as it has been part of my life for nearly ten years and I have learned so much about the criminal justice system and the supervision and rehabilitation of offenders from the excellent staff and management who work for the Probation Service in Essex.

      “However, the only way I could think of to bring more attention to the Government’s privatisation plans was to resign and campaign with others, including the trade unions involved, to try to prevent or, at least, delay the proposals.”

      The Government plans to abolish probation trusts next year.

      A smaller national probation service will be responsible for high-risk offenders and public protection cases, while low and medium-risk criminals will become the responsibility of community rehabilitation companies. They will be funded according to their ability to reduce reoffending.

  20. I received my letter automatically assigning me to a company that does not exist this morning. Very depressing-the only way to exercise control is to resign which is exactly what the toads at the Min of J want-they don't realise that Grayling will set his sights on them next-wait to see who supports them when they are having to dismantle their own jobs.

  21. Tim Young - at last a Board Member somewhere in England and Wales who is prepared to show some principles. Thank you on behalf of all probation staff.

  22. Manchester mutual : £18 million contact, paid for by sodexo, nacro involved but no money or control. Likewise no control by staff. Those involved are all senior management acting in sly ways. No representation by PO's, PSO etc.

  23. If any one organisation can only bid for 25% of contracts then shouldn't issue be raised if the same companies are bankrolling other companies?

  24. Is there a picture of secondary ownership emerging? Are the likes of Sodexo being the prime movers in some CRCs ( to meet the 25% stipulation) but guaranteeing/ supporting/bankrolling the mutuals ready to (dis) honourably step up to the plate when they start to struggle? Clever tactics me thinks, or put another way, disgraceful....

    1. Thats what happened in the work programme. The 'big boys' helped much smaller organisations to set up and then swallowed them up after contracts were given.
      The MoJ need to give assurance that the same wont happen with probation.

    2. Of course they can't - it will be a 'market' for rehabilitation services and the small fry will indeed be gobbled up.

    3. Would you trust any assurances from the MoJ?

  25. Off topic and not about probation but somethings should be posted in as many places as possible.

    1. The children of former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher will avoid paying millions in inheritance tax because their mother's house in Belgravia, London, is registered to an offshore trust.

      Thatcher, who died in April, left £4.7 million to her family in her will, with a third each going to her children Mark and Carol, and the remaining third to be shared between her grandchildren when they reach 25.

      Not mentioned in the document is the house in Chester Square, recently valued at £12.5 million by Zoopla, which Thatcher lived in for the last decades of her life, reports the Mirror.

      Under UK law, those who inherited the property to would have had to pay inheritance tax of 40% of its value, or up to £5 million, if it were registered as belonging to a UK resident.

      The house was bought in 1991 by Bakeland Property Ltd, which was then based in Jersey, and then sub-leased to a firm of the same name registered in the British Virgin Isles, another offshore tax haven.

      John Christensen, of the Tax Justice Network, said: "There are huge financial benefits for an offshore company to own a property or leasehold, particularly in connection with stamp duty and inheritance tax.

      "A company doesn't die. If a person dies the property has to be passed on to someone else - obviously this is not the case with a company.

      "This can be very beneficial indeed and can save a large amount of money in taxes which would be othewise due."

      In 2002, the Guardian reported that the company's shares were held by Hugh Thurston and Leonard Day, Thatcher's friends and financial advisers.

      Accountants said that they were acting as nominees for a trust with concealed beneficiaries.

      One of Thatcher's first acts on becoming prime minister in 1979 was to erase government restrictions on the amount of money that could be moved abroad, leading to the growth of offshore tax havens.

      "It has always been strange that Margaret Thatcher, that most British of PMs, enjoyed the benefits of a property registered in the BVI. It is possible that Denis Thatcher set up the trust or other offshore arrangements in order to save tax," Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK told the Mirror.

    2. anyone surprised? no. usual stuff, tory or otherwise, i.e. get into a position of power & its "you do as you're told, while i do as i like", a principle we might refer to in 21st C as Boris's Law. The Bully Club rules, perhaps? Sadly the depth of duplicity and 'need for greed' is as inevitable in the politically ambitious as the products of the aforementioned grizzlys, browns and kodiaks.

  26. An other demonstration of Graylings foresight and forward thinking?

    1. The Chronicle can reveal the Ministry of Justice shelled out £1.14m last year to update the prison’s fire alarm system - including installing a high-tech extractor fan - even though the building is now empty after the last of the 191 prisoners left on Friday.
      But Reading’s deputy council leader, Cllr Tony Page, criticised the Ministry of Justice for “not doing their homework”. He said: “The key question is how much abortive expenditure there has been. If the fire alarm can be relocated, then this obviously reduces the cost, but if it cannot, more than £1m has been spent and that is a questionable amount of money because obviously any abortive expenditure is regrettable.”
      Responding to a question from Labour politician Ian Lavery last month, Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “The fire alarm upgrade began over a year ago before the decision to close the prison was taken. It will be relocated to another part of the estate.”
      A Prison Service spokesman was unable to confirm this yesterday, but he admitted the money had been spent on upgrading the system in October last year, and added: “We carried out a mandatory upgrade, following recommendations by fire safety inspectors, and to ensure it met current fire safety guidelines.”
      Justice secretary Chris Grayling swung the axe in September on the historic prison, which first opened in 1844 and has been used to house young offenders since 1992, because it is uneconomic and cramped. The 160 staff have mostly been deployed elsewhere. The Prison Officers’ Association estimates the local economy will lose millions as a result of the closure, and chairman Peter McParlin said: “It is an absolute disgrace.” A former prison staff member added: “They were telling us years ago the place wasn’t fit for purpose. You’d have thought someone with a bit of vision might have realised it was going to have to close and spending that sort of money on it would be a waste. I’d heard they were planning to spend another fortune on the roof before selling it off, which wouldn’t surprise me either.” Reading is one of four prisons being shut to make way for a £250m super prison, and the Prison Service spokesman added: “Our prison modernisation programme will not only create a fit for purpose prison estate, but will also save the taxpayer over £500m by 2015.”

    2. Gives a whole new twist to 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol', eh?

  27. Mr Wright may need to check his O level Math......Responding to a question from Labour politician Ian Lavery last month, Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “The fire alarm upgrade began over a year ago before the decision to close the prison was taken.................If the upgrade was last October 2012 and the decision made to close the prison in September 2013 ..then the upgrade did not take place more than a year ago............and lets see where the equipment turns up, shall we?

  28. Re list of potential primes: Ingeus and CRI are bidding both together and independently (depending on the CPA); Carillion, Reed and RAPt are partnering; MITIE chose not to bid a while back; and surprise entrant DHL have lined up a very interesting partnership...