Monday, 30 June 2014

Going Global

On the day that privateers must submit their bids for the 21 probation CRC's, I feel the need to try and recap; put things into a bit of context and just pull together some thoughts and reflections that hopefully just might hang together.

We know TR is proving to be a complete omnishambles, just as predicted, but Grayling seems just as determined to carry on regardless. despite all the evidence of emerging risks. We know the policy is driven by ideology, it isn't going to save any money and the MoJ/Noms continue to prove their ineptitude on a daily basis. 

Every part of the criminal justice system appears to be in crisis. Here's a solicitor writing:-
All the while, the Government which is telling us we must be more ‘efficient’ and that those of us working in the criminal justice system are to blame, is wasting a vast amount of money on a Public Defender Service, which is not wanted or needed, but which is an example of the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice throwing their toys out of the pram when those in the criminal justice system fight back against the cuts.
I am a criminal lawyer and always will be, and I am a fighter, but this Government is consistently knocking me down and I fear that soon I and all the others who have made a career within the criminal justice system will no longer have the fight to get back up. I am in a very fortunate position, I am self employed, and I know that the solicitors who instruct me will not refuse to do so anymore on the basis of this blog. Many of my colleagues in the criminal justice system are not so lucky, whistleblowing policies seem to be a waste of paper. Those in the police, CPS and Court Service who are speaking out are finding themselves disciplined or sidelined, living in fear that if they speak out they may no longer be able to afford their rent or their mortgage. The bosses who are supposed to protect them are so ‘efficiency’ target driven that the implied term of trust and confidence only seems to exist in the employee/employer relationship and not the other way round.
I’m not looking for sympathy, just that those of us in the criminal justice system continue our fight, and support each other, as that is the only way we will prevent the implosion of the criminal justice system and ensure at least a certain amount of justice for those who are unfortunate enough to become part of it.
Prisons have been hastily closed, staff laid off to save money, but are now having to be rehired as numbers in custody soar and costs rise as premium payments are made to private prison operators encouraged to accept more inmates. Things are so bad the MoJ have had to resort to the wheeze of rounding up the early-retired in order to form a zero-contract, Dad's Army 'Prison Service Reserve', as reported here by the BBC:-   

Prison service letter

We know the probation IT systems are shite and the MoJ 'Shared Services' computer project is in disarray having cost the taxpayer millions already, as reported here:- 

A botched ERP project at the heart of the Ministry of Justice's Shared Services Programme has led to the outsourcing of the back-office functions to Steria – the very company given the original contract to set up the "in-house" systems. Departmental accounts for the MoJ's fiscal '14 ended 31 March reveal the cost of the failure to get the Shared Services strategy off the ground - a cool £56m - as the work undertaken to date is obsolete.
The Shared Service Programme (SSP) was based on ERP platform running HR, operational finance, procurement, payroll and end-to-end transactional services for 90,000 civil servants. Some 1,000 civil staff ran these functions from centres in Bootle and Newport.
"The programme has endured significant time and cost pressures to complete the original solution under the initial framework design and a combination of complex contractual arrangements and weaknesses in programme governance has resulted in poorer value for money," the accounts stated.
"As a result of this," it added, "the future direction of travel for the SSP has changed from a developed in-house solution to an outsourced solution".
The decision to abandon the public run service and enter "negotiations" with a Steria 75-per-cent-owned joint venture with the government, Shared Services Connected Ltd, was taken on by the MoJ Departmental board mid-June. The "outsourcing" is forecast to start in the "autumn of 2014", the accounts added.
As for the project work completed to date, "these outputs represent a constructive loss (expenditure that has been incurred that no longer provides any benefit)… The Shared Services constructive loss recognised in 2013-2014 is £56.3m".
This means the legacy systems and development work do not feature in the new outsourcing which is set to start in the "autumn 2014". The recent Major Projects Authority report gave the MoJ Shared Service programme a Red rating recently. It stated delays in deployments elevated costs.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, told us:
"This shows again how private companies are raking it in on the backs of taxpayers and being rewarded for failure. This contract should now be cancelled and a proper in-house bid given serious consideration to prevent millions of pounds more of our money being squandered."
The sums of money being paid to IT companies by the British Government is staggering, as this article in the Independent explains:-
Private IT companies are being paid almost £5bn a year by the taxpayer to run Government computer networks, startling new figures reveal today. An analysis of contracts across Whitehall shows that the American computer giant Hewlett-Packard alone was paid £140m a month last year by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Ministry of Justice for computer services.
Another IT firm, Capgemini, holds contracts worth £1bn a year to supply and maintain computers across central and local government. In total the Government paid £10bn to its top 20 contractors in 2013. Almost half of this was spent on IT. The sums paid out to major international IT firms dwarf the £2.2bn paid to ‘outsourcing’ companies like Serco and G4S, who have been subjected to the most ferocious public criticism over their state contracts.
The figures were uncovered by the Whitehall think-tank, the Institute for Government, and Spend Network, which aggregates raw Whitehall spending data to show which private companies are the biggest recipients of taxpayer largesse.
Despite all the cock-ups and scandals involving the private sector, Chancellor George Osborne recently made it clear that the attack on public service jobs will continue with the aim of handing shed-loads more money to largely-disgraced private companies as part of the process of dispensing with a further million public servants by 2019. In response, all Labour have said is that they will try and 'regulate' the privateers better. 

All this in stark contrast to every opinion poll that makes it clear the public do not want the privatisation of public services. We know the mainstream media, the BBC in particular, have no interest in these issues saying it's all 'old' news, and simply choose to ignore protests like the recent London 'austerity' march. I see good old Greater London Napo Branch has something to say about this on their facebook page:-
A BBC insider has informed NAPO GLB that following the anti-war and anti-austerity marches the BBC has been under increased pressure not to give extensive coverage to demonstrations, protests, or those likely to be engaged in seditious activities such as being in opposition to government policies fearing civil unrest and escalation.
But, as I've often been reminded by some more radical commentators, it's all part of a global neo-liberal conspiracy, and here's some recent proof provided courtesy of Mr Assange and reported here:-
The whistleblower and transparency website WikiLeaks published on Thursday the secret draft text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, a controversial global trade agreement promoted by the United States and European Union that covers 50 countries and is opposed by global trade unions and anti-globalization activists.
Activists expect the TISA deal to promote privatization of public services in countries across the globe, and WikiLeaks said the secrecy surrounding the trade negotiations exceeds that of even the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that has made headlines in the past year.
Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federating public service workers in 150 countries, has reported that TISA threatens to allow multinational corporations to permanently privatize vital public services such as healthcare and transportation in countries across the world.
"This agreement is all about making it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders," said PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli in response to the leak. "The aim of public services should not be to make profits for large multinational corporations. Ensuring that failed privatizations can never be reversed is free-market ideology gone mad."
The secrecy of the TISA negotiations "exceeds even the controversial Trans-Pacific Partner Agreement (TPPA) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness," wrote Jane Kelsey, a law professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand who analyzed the leaked documents on behalf of Wikileaks, which leaked portions of the TPPA in the past.
The same governments that installed the failed global trade deregulation models in the World Trade Organization that lead to the global financial meltdown are now promoting TISA, according to Kelsey and WikiLeaks.
Kelsey's analysis also confirms the concerns of trade unions like PSI that the TISA agreement would lock governments into and extend their current levels of deregulation and trade liberalization, thus preventing governments from returning public services into public hands when privatizations fail and establishing greater regulations to protect the environment and workers safety. 
So, seeing as this blog post has gone global, here are some extracts from an interesting reflection aptly entitled 'The Central Paradox of the 21st Century'. Read the whole article here. 
Our unheard of affluence as consumers, our precarious existence as workers both stem from the same source: inexorable productivity increases. Every year, as technology advances we can make more goods and services with fewer inputs of labour and capital. It used to take dozens of men to unload a ship. Today one man on a computer and another on a crane are faster than 100 longshoremen could ever be. When I started in television, producing a broadcast quality news story required a cameraman, soundman, editor, reporter, producer, and transmission engineer. Today, one person can fulfil all of those functions and generally will get paid less than any one of us used to.
Productivity increases boost our societal wealth and so make us all collectively richer but they also make more of us redundant. This is an old story and the traditional answer is that we Luddites should stop complaining and happily give up our handloom weaving gigs because technology will soon find us something even better. Perhaps that is true, in the long run, but try telling it to the children of autoworkers in Detroit or the grandchildren of ship builders in Newcastle. Technological progress today is a job killer and this process is likely to accelerate. Even China is not immune. Today it has fewer manufacturing jobs than it had in 1996 even though it is producing almost twice as many goods.
This paradox between our affluence as consumers and our precariousness as workers poses economic, political, and moral conundrums. If we can produce more with less, and workers become redundant, who will buy the goods? A robot can make a mobile phone but it cannot purchase one. Workers are also consumers. Fire your workers, your profits will rise until the day no one can afford to buy your product. Henry Ford was a visionary for paying his workers enough so they could buy his cars.
Ultimately, our production possibilities frontier and so our societal wealth is determined by our level of technology. That keeps expanding. Thus every year we should be richer. Each generation should be better off than its parents. That we are not is a problem of distribution. When Harold Macmillan told Britons in 1957, “most of our people have never had it so good”, post war prosperity was due to the introduction of labour saving technology but also because societal wealth was shared. The rich got richer during the post war golden age (1945-1973) but so did everybody else. Productivity gains were almost instantaneously transmitted into wage gains. Today the benefits of productivity gains adhere to the CEOs of companies and their shareholders, not workers.
Progressives are stuck with the notion that to cure inequality, to restore demand, we should raise wages and reduce unemployment. These are worthy goals but as technology eliminates more jobs it becomes a Sisyphean task. If you are a regular reader of Pieria, you will not be surprised I suggest a basic income guarantee as the long-term solution. As technology reduces employment opportunities while increasing production, nothing else will allow us to maintain demand sufficient to meet supply.
Ever since the invention of agriculture ten thousand years ago, we have learned that from the sweat of our brow we will earn our daily bread. This deep-seated truth is now out of date. Capitalism and technology have in large part solved the problem of supply. We need to solve the problem of demand. The first step is to realize we live in a post scarcity economy, that austerity is not the answer. The second stem is to recognize we need to divorce work from consumption. Otherwise, technological progress will impoverish us rather than enrich us and that would be tragic, ironic, and absurd.
(By the way the comments on this article are well worth a read as well)

But it's not all doom and gloom. Remember what the FT said recently in an editorial:-
"British governments of all political colours have been too promiscuous about transferring activities to the private sector. Not every public service lends itself to going private. The powers invested in the state for sensitive services such as prisons can never be adequately captured in a contract, and should not be supplied by private contractors. The government must control its temptation to outsource on all fronts. The rush to outsource the probation service is a case in point."
I'll end this rather meandering post with a video presentation from the USA that I think shows the likely direction of travel we can expect unless the public wakes up and gets active. 


  1. Double - no triple excellent Jim - bringing in the global analysis - thank you, thank- you, thank -you.

    Maybe we do need a #probationhour on Twitter from time to time to learn & share with folk around the world who have engaged with those defined as criminal.

    On Twitter I am @Andrew_S_Hatton I try to Follow people who understand #Probation

    I have put some more thoughts on The Conservative Home website in response to some sloppy thinking - weneed to engage with those folk as well, they are being distracted by Glastonbury, The world cup & Wimbledon, like many are being so tempted. I have suggested some alternatives for attention, but as you are Jim - we need to work at it - climate change is part of the problem and one day - truly - the electicity might really be turned off for more than a couple of days - could you manage??

  2. I am thrilled that this blog has gone global, now the whole world can see what a shambles privatisation is and the true cost of it. All those reading from beyond please take note and see the destruction that privatisation is. There appears to be no value in human life's only in money, yet the governments continue to plough ahead despite the stark truth ,just for profit. I hate them. It would be wonderful if just one person in government would stand up for humanity.

  3. Given the ever widening reach of this blog, can I enter a very serious request? Even as a twenty-years experience former PO I struggle with the acronyms on the site. The job was always full of them, we needed and need them, but sometimes I read a post, understand all the interconnecting words, but not the acronyms, so I am none the wiser. If it is difficult for a former pro, how do the non probation readers cope? Please please , the list on the right hand side of the page is useful but incomplete and often leaves me still uninformed. Abbreviated forms I used to use included SER, SIR, PartC, APO, 114B, DCW, LRC-plus "pink sheet', etc; Jim, 30 years in, and others will know what these were!. But these are no longer in use, and new ones have replaced them. So a BIG request to accommodate those who are not in the job-we need to keep the blog as accessible as possible. Remember our non-probation readers. We can't afford inadvertently to alienate anyone. And reading that a PPO supervised by a PSO whose RARS was T4 not T3 is only partially fathomable using the acronym dictionary over on the right! Thank you.

    1. Point taken - the Glossary has been significantly updated.



    2. No criticism ever intended Jim, just a POV IMHO TTFN ;)

  4. I am old - but stumped by 114B - Pray do tell!

    1. Schedule 11 4 B of one of the 1980's Criminal Justice Acts, empowering Courts to attach a condition of specified activities to a Probation Order so that we kept offender in day Centres all day mon-fri doing groups, etc. It was used as an alternative to custody... we joked it was an alternative to liberty...

  5. Yep - 11 4B - 1980, as that was coming in I was leaving the probation world where I worked next door to one of the pilot DTCs (Day Training Centres) at 3 Derby Lane - although direct involvement there and later at the one at 123 Grove Park, were part of the back drop of my career and greatly informed my practice.

  6. I think we do need to go all the way to socialism. Andre Gorz wrote a book called "Farewell to the working class" in the 1960. He saw this day coming but he said the technology will free us from the need to work. Instead we would pursue other interest hobbies and leisure activities. We would enrich our lives with our well funded free time.

    This could be achieved now we have the technology for all in the UK to work only two days a week. But we don't have the political will and this is because money power has bought the politicians. We do not live in a democracy but rather an oligopoly run for the rich elite, the elite that owns the companies that are set to buy and exploit probation. The question is how do we stop this exploitation and share out wealth better?

    Thanks Jim it's always been wider than probation.



    1. Too many education classes are being cancelled and workshops closed at a Huntingdonshire prison, according to its Independent Monitoring Board.
      The release of HMP Littlehey’s annual report for the year ending January 31, 2014, comes after the board alerted the deputy director of custody and minister for prisoners earlier this year about its concerns.
      It states that during April and December up to a quarter of planned classes and workshops at the category C prison, which holds adults alongside up to 480 young offenders, were not fulfilled, leaving prisoners in their cells as many as 22 hours a day in some cases.
      The report of the prison’s IMB, tasked with monitoring daily life and ensuring proper standards of care and decency, concluded: “Throughout the year the prison has had to deliver fundamental changes in its ways of working in order to deliver government budget cuts. This was well organised, but led to uncertainty, low staff morale and a loss of experienced prison officers through a voluntary departure scheme as well as a reduction in the number of staff on the wings.
      “The board will continue to monitor closely the potential effect this could have on the good order and safety for prisoners and staff within the prison, which the board recognises has been good over the last year.”
      The report found that while incidents of self-harm and assaults had fallen among youths, they hadn’t among adults.
      It added: “Given the high proportion of sex offenders the board is concerned that there are insufficient sex offender programmes being delivered.

      “In addition, although there has been some improvement, there continues to be an inadequate range of activities for the aged population. The board hopes that sufficient activity and education places will be made available as this is a key enabler in the drive to reduce re-offending.”
      The prison opened in 1988 as an integrated sex offender prison and the youth wing opened in February, 2010.

    2. And they use the word rehabilitation to cover up their bullshit to make new plans. Privatising has nothing to do with REHABILITATION, dickhead Grayling doesn't even know what the word means and uses to get a psychological advantage to make people belief in his bullshit policies. What ever games he is playing its working against all evidence which shows that its a DIABOLICAL MESS OF EPIC PROPORTOINS. Cam-MORON can't you even see sense.

    3. I get the feeling that the prison overcrowding crisis is in the proccess of sorting itself out without government intervention.

    4. A HUNT has been launched for two prisoners who have absconded from prison.

      Kent Police is appealing for help to trace the men who went missing from HMP Standford Hill open prison on the Isle of Sheppey on Saturday.

      Scott Callaghan, 35, is serving a prison sentence for perverting the course of justice and Billy Harkins, 29, for aggravated burglary.

  8. Does anyone know if the MoJ staff have in fact taken strike action? Or have we got another news blackout?

  9. So any word on the bidders today? I hear its also going very secret due to commercial confidentiality. Dont want to scare away the vultures ready to feast

    1. Not sure when the list will be published, but heres what we've probably got to look forward too.

    2. Hospital contract staff were on the brink of a walkout last week, after their employer failed to pay them on time.

      Cleaners and porters at the Epsom and St Helier Hospital site in Carshalton were still yet to receive their wages a week after they were due.

      The employees work for firm Mitie, who have had a contract with the hospital since June 1.

      The staff, many of whom work 11-hour days, were due to get their first pay cheque on June 20, but a week later the money had still not landed in their accounts.

      Lynda Berry from Sutton is employed by Mitie as a hospital porter.

      She said: "I think it is terrible. We all have mortgages, we have families to support and money we have to pay out.

      "Have they considered that some of us might have now incurred bank charges?

      "The company will not even explain, how can they justify not paying us?"

      Mitie finally dished out the wages after processing the payments on Friday.

      A Mitie spokesperson cited a technical fault for the problem, but declined to provide any further information when pressed.

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