Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Omnishambles Update 30

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. 

Stan Hardy 
Board Chair

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:-

    Embedded image permalink

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:-

Charities are both amazed and infuriated by the way big private sector companies' failures on multi-million pound publicly-funded contracts seem to be tolerated.
We have seen G4S's bungled Olympics security contract, the Serious Fraud Office called in to investigate G4S and Serco's electronic tagging overcharging, concerns about the quality of Atos' work capability assessments and long running failings with the Work Programme.
These multi-million pound contracts seem to demand less transparency and less rigorous monitoring than charities are used to providing for contracts or grants worth a fraction of these amounts. Most galling is that they appear able to go from one mess-up to another without it impairing their chances of landing further huge contracts.
Two new reports from the National Audit Office investigate how these failures have contributed to a loss of confidence in government's use of contractors. The memorandum on managing government suppliers states that, according to Cabinet Office figures, central government expenditure with third parties in 2012-13 was £40bn, of which 25% or £10bn went to just 40 strategic suppliers. The Big Four – Serco, G4S, Capita and Atos – alone got £4.3bn of these contracts.
The report asks whether the rising prevalence of a few major contractors is in the public interest. The obvious answer is that of course it isn't. It allows them to dominate, set prices and stifle innovation. Opening up to smaller providers, including both small firms and voluntary sector providers, would help alleviate the problem identified by NAO that some of these contractors are "too big to fail".
Commenting on the findings, the NAO said, "the public have clear expectations of the standards expected of all public services. These include honesty, impartiality, openness, fairness, integrity, transparency, objectivity, and reliability, carried out in the spirit of the law, in the public interest, to high ethical standards and achieving value for money."
We need to be confident that we are getting quality services at a fair price. But as the NAO identifies, a lack of transparency means we cannot be confident of either.
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?

The NAO reports say that high profile allegations of poor performance, irregularities and misreporting mean there is a "crisis of confidence at present, caused by some worrying examples of contractors not appearing to treat the public sector fairly, and of departments themselves not being on top of things." For years, trust has drained from politicians, private businesses, banks and journalists but public trust in charities has remained consistently high. Charities shouldn't take this trust for granted but at a time when public confidence in the tight knit group of firms that dominate public contracts is plummeting, government is foolish to ignore those the public do trust.
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"

Thank you!


  1. 'The slowest train wreck in history'. Brilliant.

  2. The Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company: Martin Davies

    The Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company: Rob Menary

    The Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire Community Rehabilitation Company: John Wiseman

    The Staffordshire and West Midlands Community Rehabilitation Company: Catherine Holland

    The Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company: Nick Hall

    The Essex Community Rehabilitation Company: Mary Archer

    The Norfolk and Suffolk Community Rehabilitation Company: Martin Graham

    The Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company: Annette Hennessey

    The Thames Valley Community Rehabilitation Company: Paul Gillbard

    The Warwickshire and West Mercia Community Rehabilitation Company: Liz Stafford

    The London Community Rehabilitation Company: Nick Smart

    The Wales Community Rehabilitation Company: Liz Rijnenberg

    The Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Community Rehabilitation Company: Jo Mead

    The Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company: Sarah Billiald

    The Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire Community Rehabilitation Company: Tessa Webb

    The Cumbria and Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company: Kevin Robinson

    The Cheshire and Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company: Recruitment process ongoing

    The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company: Recruitment process ongoing

    The West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company: Recruitment process ongoing

    The Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company: Recruitment process ongoing

    The South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company: Recruitment process ongoing

    National Probation Service Deputy Directors

    North West: Roz Hamilton

    North East: Lynda Marginson

    South East: Sonia Crozier

    South West: Angela Cossins

    London: Sara Robinson

    Midlands: Sarah Chand

    Business Development: Jim Barton

    Colin Allars said: "I am very pleased to be in position to make these appointments, all of which will be crucial in taking forward the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.

    "It is particularly pleasing to be able to appoint leaders with so much experience in delivering probation services. Their knowledge will be absolutely vital as we embark on a challenging period of change and reform.

    "As well as congratulating all 23 probation leaders on their appointment, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have decided not to pursue opportunities in the NPS or CRCs. I am grateful to them for all they have done and for their commitment and professionalism.

    "They will remain in post as Chief Executives until the current Trust contracts end andwill support the orderly closedown of Trusts.

    "I appreciate that staff anticipating a move to one of the five CRCs where we have not been able to make an appointment yet will be keen to know who may be leading them in the future.

    "Work on these appointments will start immediately and we will let staff know the outcome of the process as soon as possible."

    The 21 CRCs are now being registered with Companies House

    1. "It is particularly pleasing to be able to appoint leaders with so much experience in delivering probation services" says Colin Allars - because, like the rest of NOMS, he's got none.

  3. I must account for a good couple of hundred of those 500k hits, as I often check your blog several times a day for the comments. Here's another testimonial for you: "more informative than any management briefing".

    Your readership is even wider than 500,000 hits would suggest, as your blog is regularly circulated by email within our Trust - and I know for a fact that senior managers read it for information too!

    Please keep it up!

  4. Heather Munro , Sue Hall , Russell Bruce, Peter Wright,Pete Brown,John Benstead - a few of the missing names - there is a lot of experience going !!

  5. Sara Robinson as Deputy Chief of NPS in the South East. Unbelievable. She was useless as a PO in Islington!

    1. Shame that has been said anonymously - I think either withdraw it or add your name.

      As a probation officer - I would face up in court and say very negative things about individuals - it is despicable to abuse anonymity.

      Andrew Hatton

    2. Andrew, I agree. I too gave evidence of a negative nature, but that word is key: "evidence". To say someone was "useless" is unsupported name-calling. We wouldn't say an offender was "useless" and we shouldn't say it about colleagues either, no matter how much we disagree with them.

    3. I don't imagine 'useless' would have been described as 'despicable' or unsupported 'name-calling' if the subject had been Mr. Grayling. It may be considered offensive, but once we go down that road we kill free speech. I think the Trusts are useless and many senior managers have shown themselves to be useless, but you may not agree with either my evidence or opinion.

    4. It is the difference between personal unsubstantiated name-calling and demonstrably accurate criticism of actions an/or statements. Trusts are not people and may well have proved useless in protecting staff. Senior management teams may be demonstrated to have failed in the same way. However, although I would use a number of epithets to describe the Justice Secretary's actions and apparent attitude, including "insensitive", "uncaring" and "irresponsible" plus many others, I wouldn't refer to him as a person as "useless". In fact he is very useful-if you are an international business conglomerate. What I am (and will continue to object to is referring to a person as "useless".

      As for quite how asking for people to be allowed to speak up in their own name in criticising policy is killing free speech, the argument has entirely lost me there.

    5. I agree Graying is useful if you are an international conglomerate. If it's okay to say he is useful to those interests, then what if you are a probation worker facing all number of cuts to pay and conditions in the future. Do you say he is not useful to those latter interests or do you bite the bullet and say he is useless to those interests? As for so-called anonymity it's what the finger is pointing at that matters, not the pointing finger.

    6. I don't like the Term Failing Grayling either although I acknowledge I have retweeted it numbers of times.

      I have also directly criticised others for using it, especially Sadiq Khan.

      I know whenever I am criticised in a disparaging way, my first tendency is to dismiss the criticism and think the criticizer unworthy, whilst simultaneously being drawn to attack back - hardly 'pro social modelling' (a term I dislike) or likely to engender respect.

      I think it also is unprofessional and does little to aid an otherwise decent cause.

      Andrew Hatton

  6. Offender Rehabilitation Bill Committee continuing live now - first up this morning - Women Offenders including Women's Centres Elfyn Llwyd speaking now

    Links for Today here: -


    Andrew Hatton

  7. Seems to me that front-line Probation professionals are being "done unto" and others are suggesting what is good for them, just fancy that - a 'Probation Institute' - already and so soon with a smart website - what is going on - are folk being humoured or suckered or at last treated as if they are after all important, as long as they agree with what is so generously given to them?


    Or is it all a big distraction, like Cameron's many recent diversionary speeches to take our attention away from the court where his former chief communications officer and a personal (LOL) friend are on trial for deception?

    The most recent report I could find of that trial that came first in a Google search is from a New York newspaper - Cameron has distracted us - for the time being!

    Will it be similar with The Probation Institute?


    1. The Probation Institute website states that it is a "A Partnership of the Probation Chiefs Association (PCA), the Probation Association (PA), Napo and UNISON ... working with the Ministry of Justice to establish a Probation Institute." If this is true, how long has NAPO known of this, and how has it suddenly appeared oiut of the blue, so hurriedly launched that the website is still under construction (with the prospectus hurriedly written in MSWord)?

      Any domain name can be traced easily to its creators and registrant. The domain lookup shows that the domain "probation-institute.org" was first registered on 17-Apr-2013 so it has been in the pipeline for months. How come it is only now being mentioned?

    2. I suspect the Probation Institute is being instituted merely as an attempt to legitimise the omnishbles.

    3. No that's not correct. It has been under discussion for some while amongst many groups with interests in this work. it is still in early stages of thinking and not driven by MoJ. It offers a small light in an otherwise dark future. The timing is political spin to create just such a confused response. Its a long overdue development which might, just might offer future protection to professional standards, train, education and therefore of benefit to staff. If it was MoJ led I would not be seeing it in thus way.

    4. "The timing is political spin to create just such a confused response." An element of truth then, I venture to suggest. But as you say, it's been discussed for some time. Thanks for responding Prof Senior.

    5. Do you really think any probation institute we get from this MOJ will be any use? Don't make me laugh. While the idea itself might be laudable and overdue I have seen some documents on it. Our analysis was that it was designed to rubber stamp corporate practice and eviscerate napo. It also serves to distract or mitigate the vandalism being wreaked upon the service at present. Don't believe the pr bollocks. Oh and there's no money money for it-it will be cost neutral in the jargon. ..

  8. i'd like to suggest there's a prize for whoever hits the 500k entry - its Jim's blog, its Jim's call... but definitely worth raising a glass to the fact that this grumpy ole so-&-so has made a significant contribution to the debate. Good on yer Jim - and thanks to all contributors who have made me laff & cry in equal measure. Now where was I... oh aye, Gits, Bullies, Made up Names, Jobs for the boys (& girls), mutter grumble etc. Its not really amusing at all, but just for today, just for Jim. Hip hip Hurrah!!!

    1. Very good! Thanks for that. Yes I agree there ought to be a prize - the trouble is virtually everyone is anonymous. I'll have a think over tea.

    2. Ok I've had a think. It could be a bottle of something, but there are practical problems.

      Having just read yet another twitter row, that tends to prove beyond doubt the limitations of the medium as a platform for debate, how about the winner writing a guest post? We'll just have to hope there aren't too many claimants.

  9. I'd like to believe that only the real claimant will make the claim - assuming the 500K entry can be clearly identified. We've set our professional stall as having unsurpassable integrity and a level of veracity beyond compare, so the real test is here & now. If this makes the grade my 'second' will be a very particular breakfast cereal - she knows who she is.

  10. Yaaaaaaay!!!! Good on yer Jim!!!!!

    1. Blimey I missed it! Too busy typing tomorrow's lol. Maybe we'll never know who it was...........time to reach for the best malt I feel......Thanks everyone!

  11. Congrats Jim - Sad times but you have loyal contributors out there , whether reading or writing , here's to the 1million..............

  12. The composite motion calling on officers and officials of Napo to pursue an institute to protect and promote professional standards in the new landscape was passed by unanimous vote at AGM in Llandudno. The principal has been estsblished so it can now be shaped with Napo at the table. Proposed by Training Committee.

    1. Thanks for that - just a bit suspicious of the MoJ announcement timing.

  13. so on a separate note and... that letter. 3 people on my floor got a letter Saturday, a few today and the rest of us are still waiting. One colleague got their letter on the Saturday was told they were assigned to CRC but worked on one of the auto assigned team. When they rang HR to enquire there had been a mistake but couldn't explain why. they are now sending a corrected letter to advise that the individual is NPS. All very worrying that it is all going to horribly wrong at this early stage. Goodness know what will happen when they start transferring cases.

  14. Ohh and no letter yet despite the replies having to be in by 6/12 though I might just draft myself a letter!!