As I write this, news is still dribbling out concerning the senior appointments both at CRC's and NPS. We should have the full details before the day is out, but there's already been one significant announcement and it concerns Sue Hall, CEO of West Yorkshire and Chair of the Probation Chief's Association. Readers will recall she had been involved in the early stages of setting up the staff-led mutual and had been appointed head of the CRC. I'm grateful for the reader who sent me this:-
The WYPT Board Members have reluctantly accepted Sue Hall's decision to retire next July. Sue's stewardship and conduct of the role of Chief Executive of West Yorkshire Probation Service has been flawless. She has combined outstanding leadership with great humanity; skill, professionalism, judgement and wisdom with humility and the ability to run a highly successful, essential public service in a manner which many CEOs of much larger operations (both public and private) would envy.
Had circumstances been different, she would have led the CRC into whatever future presents itself, showing the same loyalty and support for the WY Probation Team as before. This is not to be, however, and it is a clear example of Sue's commitment to Probation and the WY Team that she will remain to hand over to her successor and will do so in her usual professional and meticulous manner.
We, the Board Members have enjoyed working with her and we know she will ensure that the WY Probation "flag" still flies after the Trust and its Board are no more. We wish her well and we know that the Probation Service will be the poorer by her absence.
The question is, was she pushed, or did she jump? She was shabbily treated by Chris Wright recently on the BBC radio 5Live programme and looked clearly uncomfortable on the BBC2 Newsnight discussion concerning Serco and the London Unpaid Work contract. For such an honourable professional, she must feel bitterly disappointed that her career is ending in this way, but I hope she may now feel able to speak more openly than before. It all reminds me of this:-
Meanwhile Pat Waterman, Chair of Greater London Napo branch, updated members in typically robust style:-
I was not in the office on Friday so, like many of you, I came in today to read the latest missive from Heather Munro, our Chief Executive.
Her take on what is going on, and her priorities, are becoming increasingly different from mine. In her first paragraph she tells you that, as a consequence of the national negotiations having concluded without reaching a final agreement, the proposed Voluntary Redundancy Scheme was not agreed and that trusts will now have to revert to local arrangements.
Let’s be clear............the enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme that was once “on the table” was never intended for the majority of probation staff. At best it would have been available to a handful of Senior Managers and Corporate Centre staff. This was acknowledged even by Everton Bryan at several of the TR briefing events at BPR.
The fact that there is no national agreement MAY, as Heather says, be very disappointing news for everyone. But what would be even more disappointing news would be if the trade unions had acquiesced to an agreement that failed to secure adequate protections for the majority of members.
Heather goes on to say that having received provisional notice of termination of the contract with NOMS/MOJ, and an instruction from the MOJ to implement a staff transfer scheme, the Probation Board of LPT decided to begin arrangements to “split the staff” in readiness for the closure of the trust.
At the meeting last Tuesday, to which she refers, we were handed a folder containing key documents amounting to over eighty pages. We were provided with details of how exactly LPT intends to split its staff into NPS and CRC and, in response to our specific request, were assured that no letters would be sent out to staff until after the next meeting of the Local Joint Panel tomorrow (Tuesday 3rd December).
In her missive Heather also says that LPT will now begin a formal consultation with trade unions on the way in which the scheme is to be implemented and gives a number of key steps. The instruction from NAPO nationally is that, when a trust takes action to implement a sifting scheme, the local branch should lodge a local dispute.
The officers of this branch have every intention of doing so and are in discussion with our colleagues in Unison who will be taking similar action at a local level.
So there you have it.
The Probation Board have decided to follow the MOJ’s instructions and our Senior Management Team feel that they must obey these orders.
But NAPO has a policy of RESISTANCE.
The whole e-mail can be viewed over on the Napo forum pages where Andrew is single-handedly posting other useful information.
With many colleagues now receiving their EOI letters, emotions are understandably running high and there's a great temptation to feel 'it's all over'. I'm sure the MoJ would be happy if that were the prevailing view, but it's not the case here and I intend to try and explain why over the next few days.
Take for example the supposed huge amount of interest in bidding for the work. I think the truth is rather closer to this observation made by Rob Palmer on the Napo forum:-
35 'potential' bidders? The word 'potential' is the important one here. In commissioning exercises I have watched in the past, I have seen 'potential' bidders regularly reduce by over 70% between PQQ stage and actual bidding (a lot of providers submit a PQQ in haste without full consideration in fear that they will miss the opportunity but in the firm knowledge that they can pull out if, as things develop and as they give the matter more time, they decide that the opportunity is not in their best interest). That means that these 35 'potential' bidders could be whittled down to as few as 10. Bearing in mind that the specifications for the bids are not yet produced and are likely to be of questionable quality (given the complexities of the work in question and, in this particular case, the apparent ignorance of the commissioners), this is likely to reduce even further. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the number of final bids could be in single figures.
This is the slowest train wreck in history.
Added to this, there is a head of steam building up in a number of places, such as the voluntary sector, and as reported here in the Guardian:-
Furthermore, despite carrying out £4.3bn of work for the public sector, Atos and G4S paid no corporation tax at all in the UK in 2012, Capitapaid between £50m and £56m, while Serco paid £25m in tax. It seems politicians often have little problem telling charities delivering contracts how to behave. Is it unreasonable that businesses delivering public contracts should behave in a way that the public would expect? Why doesn't government insist that they provide adequate financial and performance information as well as paying appropriate levels of tax?
Of course the piece goes on to argue that the days of the big boys dominating everything may be drawing to a close and the government ought to look to the voluntary sector instead, but we know that's not straight forward at all. There are huge financial and reputational risks for charities in all this and there's no guarantee that the public will accept the view of three wise city cronies when they no doubt pronounce the likes of Serco and G4S suddenly 'reformed' and fit for purpose once again. It's not all over yet.
As an aside, I do find the efforts by Debbie Ryan of G4S in arguing the toss with twitter critics highly amusing, especially recently over that thorny issue of G4S paying no tax. Keep it up Debbie, you're quite an ambassador for your dubious employer!
Finally, today is a bit special because there's a good chance this blog is going to pass another milestone with the 500,000th hit recorded. I'm staggered really because I'd pencilled that moment in for January, but the thing really seems to have taken off in recent weeks, so a big thank you to everyone for reading and contributing. I'm always cheered by your wit and wisdom and could not wish for a better endorsement than this from yesterday:-
"For those that want to be kept informed & enjoy a no nonsense approach, I can't recommend @jimbrownblog enough"