Another memo from the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice to the Secretary of State has come into my possession, and I thought I'd share it with you:-
As you are aware, with the approach of the festive season and beginning of a New Year, it is customary to provide a report on critical projects within the Department. Our main focus in the coming year will remain delivering the Transforming Rehabilitation Implementation Programme and therefore this memorandum will deal principally with this policy area.
Again I'm happy to report that basically things are progressing well with only minor glitches being evident and a slightly extended timeframe. I'm assured that we are pretty much on schedule with only one or two Trusts having been somewhat tardy in getting the 'sifting and sorting' out of the way before the year end. All Trusts have now fallen into line, although it was a little surprising that some were willing to 'test the boundaries' to the extent they did. I am however cautiously optimistic that there will be no further difficulties from this quarter.
I agree entirely that the 'leaks' represent an intolerable situation and I can assure you that every effort is being made to locate the sources. Unfortunately I'm advised that there are countless possible individuals who have access to the Risk Assessments and that therefore in a worse case scenario, we may have to accept that the Department remains somewhat 'leaky'. I know this remains a matter of the gravest concern to Ministers, but sadly we may never know who the culprits are. It's a very poor show indeed and may I unreservedly apologise for the very unfortunate reference to the project being likened to 'turning a silk purse into a sow's ear'.
In the Department we continue to monitor the total probation staff headcount on a regular basis and I'm happy to report that we are well within target in terms of the shedding and natural wastage planned for. Indeed the target has been exceeded to such an extent that it is anticipated all eligible section heads within the Department will have triggered performance related bonus payments by the financial year end.
The reduction in staff overheads has been so successful that I am advised there may well be an overshoot which will require the selective re-employment of some key staff. You will be mindful of the huge success the Department has had recently in re-employing prison officers on fixed-term contracts so as to cover critical understaffing at the London jails. I'm advised that there should be no reason to doubt that probation staff can be encouraged to return on a similar basis.
The Contract Procurement Team continue to report strong interest across all sectors, but it is slightly disappointing that a number of potentially interested parties felt obliged to withdraw, citing issues connected with possible reputational damage. It is also true to say that feedback from potential bidders continues to highlight the higher than expected degree of antipathy and resistance to change being exhibited amongst probation staff, but as you are aware, urgent measures are being adopted to address this issue.
The voluntary sector in particular are being slightly slow in coming forward, however I'm happy to report that, during another recent extremely convivial dinner, Sir Stephen Bubb was able to assure me that nerves have been calmed and that 'charities would definitely be up for it'. As you know, Sir Stephen enjoys access at the highest levels and his assistance, particularly with public relations, has been absolutely key.
It would seem that the change of emphasis from 'revolution' to a rather less dramatic-sounding 'evolution' is beginning to have the desired effect in calming nerves within the workforce. Undoubtedly the decision to bring forward the announcement of the embryonic Probation Institute has been beneficial, and early indications are that it is assisting in affording the project greater legitimacy generally.
The IT team continue to undertake sterling work, having been bolstered by the temporary secondment of staff from the highly successful Universal Credit Procurement Project. We were indeed extremely fortunate that such high calibre staff became available at such short notice and I'm assured they are already having an effect on the Transforming Rehabilitation IT Harmonisation Programme and that it is both on time and within budget.
As you are aware, negotiations have now concluded with the Unions and it should be noted what enormous assistance it has been to have had prior serendipitous sight of their position via e-mail. In relation to the blogsite which I know has been causing you some concern, it is true to say there has been a modest increase in activity, but it is still only averaging between 2,500 and 3,000 hits daily. I'm assured there is absolutely no cause for concern.
In essence I remain confident that the project is completely deliverable and remains robustly on target for full implementation by the summer of 2015 at the absolute latest.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,