Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Omnishambles Update 54

I find it interesting that on the day of the great austerity march that went virtually unreported by the mainstream media, this article appeared in the Telegraph giving a very clear message as to what the Tories feel about public services and their employees:-  
Hundreds of thousands of civil servants and other government employees are facing the sack under sweeping Tory plans to cut back the state, The Telegraph can disclose.
Ministers are drawing up radical measures, to be announced in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, which will see widespread privatisations and at least one million public sector workers removed from the government payroll by the end of the decade. The Treasury has now ordered the Cabinet Office to prepare an “ambitious” new programme of efficiency savings stretching deep into the next parliament after the 2015 election. It comes as new laws are announced to force future governments to reduce red tape for businesses, and a fresh assault is launched on “fat cat” public officials’ pay.
In an article for The Telegraph, Matthew Hancock, the business minister and one of Mr Osborne’s closest allies, declares that government must “get out of the way” to allow companies to thrive. A new Small Business Bill will set down in law new targets for reducing the amount of regulations that shopkeepers and other small businesses have to comply with.
"We are on track to be the first government in modern times to reduce the burden of regulation on business. Our 'one in, two out' rule ensures that the burden of regulation keeps falling. Now we will put the deregulation target into the law entrenching the need for government to reduce their burden on business," Mr Hancock said.
In a separate move, Eric Pickles, the Local Government secretary, will also step up his assault on “exorbitant” salaries for public officials this week, ordering councils to share senior executives across local authorities and stamp out high pay deals. The Conservative effort to roll back the state comes after worse than expected economic figures showed that government borrowing rose last month. A succession of positive reports from economists reinforced the message that Britain is returning to strong growth.
However, Mr Osborne has also warned voters that the economy is not yet safe and the Tories are expected to argue in next year’s election campaign that they should be allowed to finish the job rather than letting Labour put the recovery at risk.
The budget deficit is forecast to continue until at least 2018, requiring public spending restraint well beyond the general election. Ministers have been told that the government workforce will fall by about one million between 2011 and 2019. At a rate of 36,000 per quarter, this is the equivalent of sacking one state employee every four minutes, every day, for the next five years.
At a meeting in Whitehall earlier this month, Mr Osborne told officials: “We’ve made excellent progress and have now shown that we can deliver savings and reforms year after year. But there’s still more to do. There’s a job to finish.” He said he wanted “an ambitious new efficiency programme” to deliver savings “across the next Parliament” and to be announced in time for the Autumn Statement later this year. “We know we need to spend taxpayers’ money responsibly,” he said.
A senior government source said the public would be urged to back further spending cuts at the next election with a simple message that Britain’s soaring debts require everyone to tighten their belts further. “What we've done so far has been presented as radical but it's actually been pretty incremental - we haven't been reinventing the wheel,” the source said.
“We want to go further. It's like a firm cutting overheads - no leading organisation ever stops looking for efficiencies and the civil service shouldn't be any different.” The reforms are expected to see more government offices privatised and turned into “public service mutuals”, which are owned by their staff, but funded by private sector payments rather than the taxpayer.
The “digitisation” of services will also put more government functions online, reducing the number of civil servants on the state payroll. 
Now given that as far as I understand the privatisation of public services is hugely unpopular with the public, the Tories making it clear that sacking a million public servants will be a key plank of their election manifesto means the other parties must respond and say what their positions are on this issue. It looks to me as if plenty of blue water is opening up in order to give the electorate a real choice come May next year.

And talking of 'outsourcing' public services, I see the Public and Commercial Service's Union are striking over the plans to privatise the MoJ 'shared services' that probation colleagues in NPS are currently trying to get to grips with:-
PCS members in two MoJ 'shared services' centres who work in payroll, personnel and finance covering the courts, prison services and Home Office face being handed over to a new company called Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), set up last autumn to take on similar work for the Department for Work and Pensions and Defra.
SSCL is 75% owned by French multinational Steria, with the government retaining 25%. Months after winning the contract the company announced plans to halve the number of UK staff doing the work and close three offices by October 2014, at the same time as taking on 200 more jobs in India.
When the Cabinet Office first published its shared services strategy, it stated the MoJ would continue to operate a standalone centre. Staff learned out of the blue late last year this had been abandoned, with no explanation.
The union believes the Cabinet Office has pushed the privatisation of shared services, despite the fact it is likely to lead to job losses, with work and personal and financial data being handled overseas. This goes against previous ministerial commitments to keep government contracts in the UK and the prime minister's recent pledge to "reshore" jobs, the union says.
The union's 400 members in the MoJ shared services centres in Newport, south Wales, and Bootle, in Merseyside, will strike next Monday 30 June after voting 93% for action on a 47% turnout.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The government is using shared services as just another way to cut civil service jobs, by privatising and sending work overseas.
"Not only does this threaten the security of sensitive personal and financial information, it is a cynical exploitation of the inferior pay and employment conditions of workers in other countries."
Sign the petition to stop offshoring our jobs and data
Email your MP to ask them to support our campaign to save our shared services.
I also notice that there are increasing signs of discontent with the BBC and its utter failure to adequately report important events such as Saturday's austerity march. Good old 38 degrees have a petition running with over 8,000 signatures and it can be found here.

no more austerity

This from the Guardian:-


Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.
An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.
"The people of this building [the House of Commons] generally speaking do not represent us, they represent their friends in big business. It's time for us to take back our power," said Brand.
"This will be a peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution and I'm very grateful to be involved in the People's Assembly."
"Power isn't there, it is here, within us," he added. "The revolution that's required isn't a revolution of radical ideas, but the implementation of ideas we already have."
A spokesman for the People's Assembly, which organised the march, said the turnout was "testament to the level of anger there is at the moment".
He said that Saturday's action was "just the start", with a second march planned for October in conjunction with the Trades Union Congress, as well as strike action expected next month.
People's Assembly spokesman Clare Solomon said: "It is essential for the welfare of millions of people that we stop austerity and halt this coalition government dead in its tracks before it does lasting damage to people's lives and our public services."
Sam Fairburn, the group's national secretary, added: "Cuts are killing people and destroying cherished public services which have served generations."
Activists from the Stop The War Coalition and CND also joined the demonstration.
The crowds heard speeches at Parliament Square from People's Assembly supporters, including Caroline Lucas MP and journalist Owen Jones. Addressing the marchers, Jones said: "Who is really responsible for the mess this country is in? Is it the Polish fruit pickers or the Nigerian nurses? Or is it the bankers who plunged it into economic disaster – or the tax avoiders? It is selective anger."
He added: "The Conservatives are using the crisis to push policies they have always supported. For example, the sell-off of the NHS. They have built a country in which most people who are in poverty are also in work."
The People's Assembly was set up with an open letter to the Guardian in February 2013. Signatories to letter included Tony Benn, who died in March this year, journalist John Pilger and filmmaker Ken Loach.
In the letter, they wrote: "This is a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government.
"The assembly will provide a national forum for anti-austerity views which, while increasingly popular, are barely represented in parliament."
The Metropolitan police refused to provide an estimate. A police spokesman said the force had received no reports of arrests.
A spokesman for the prime minister declined to comment.
Meanwhile, I saw this on facebook, giving further indication as to just how well the bidding process is going and especially the much-lauded involvement of the third sector:-
"Received an email from a manager today informing us that Momentis & Homegroup have withdrawn from the bidding for Derbyshire Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire & Rutland CRC, apparently they're no longer happy with the financial risk following the MOJs changing the contract criteria several times, they are however still possibly interested in the tier 2 bidding."
Finally, following on from their weekend special pullout supplement on the state of the criminal justice system, in which Harry Fletcher was quoted extensively, I see that the Daily Mirror have the bit firmly between their teeth and are following the probation privatisation story quite closely:-

24 comments:

  1. By way of contrast, I note that during their cosy webchat yesterday Grayling & Wright managed to squeeze in a whinge that MPs haven't had a payrise for the last 4 years, thereby justifying the 11% payrise heading their way. Poor lambs, they must be feeling the pain of austerity measures. Maybe their expenses claims will have helped them keep the wolf from the door in these hard times?

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    1. Indeed - a dickie bird tells me that over 160 MP's expense claims would easily satisfy the attention of the Old Bill.

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  2. Thank you for all the info, once again the only place I turn for up to date news & views of colleagues across the service. I have signed both petitions. Noticed quite a while ago that Bbc news has become increasingly lightweight, no analysis, very bland and raising more questions than answers. Piss poor journalism and obviously in my view under some sort of Grayling gag. Reminds me of 1984's propaganda of endless reports of distant foreign wars and not much else - importent yes, but there are many unsettling and disturbing developments here and they are just not deadline news, unless in reference to 'reality show' type programmes with a focus on personalities rather than political and economic issues. I am feeling more and more disconnected - from my job, from the political process,and my main focus is literally surviving this, financially and psychologically, while bracing myself for whatever else is to be thrown at us from now on, while the rich accumulate wealth at a rapidly increasing and obscene rate.

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  3. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/sentinel-and-co-beware-theres-no-easy-money-to-be-made-out-of-transforming-rehabilitation-9557704.html

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    1. http://hereisthecity.com/en-gb/2014/06/23/the-future-of-the-probation-service/

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    2. With animosity growing around Grayling's most recent reforms what does the future hold for this century-old system ?

      Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary is a minister with a real thirst for reform; since his appointment in 2012 he has toughened regimes, closed several jails and imposed huge cuts to legal aid. However, the impact of perhaps his most significant and certainly most controversial reform is yet to come with the government’s recent initiative to privatise the probation service.

      The government’s plans involve the breaking up of the 35 probation trusts which currently exist under the National Probation Service and replacing them with 21 ‘Community Rehabilitation Services’. This is to be done by outsourcing the work involving low-medium risk offenders to private firms or volunteer groups by auctioning off these portions of the current system. Successful bidders are likely to be large private companies who are awarded relatively long contracts. The government hopes to outsource 70% of the current probation service by January 2015.

      There are clearly major issues with the current system, 60% of short-term prisoners return to crime within a year of release. Grayling sees this new reform as a way to radically overhaul the system whilst saving money; the government’s hopes are that higher competition between private companies will mean greater efficiency and lower costs. It’s also hoped that splitting up the system will get rid of the ‘back office staff’ that increase needless bureaucracy. Despite this there is a growing scepticism of these untried and untested methods and the feeling that Grayling is desperately trying to push through these provisions without any evidence of their effectiveness.

      The loudest cries have come from NAPO, the Probation Officers Union who have already arranged two major strikes this year amidst fears that the lack of formal testing of this system is a ‘recklessly dangerous social experiment.’ The reforms are expected to leave the under resourced public sector to deal with the hardest cases. There are also concerns that private companies will cut corners to save money by employing less skilled staff, leaving the vulnerable unprotected as well as threatening public safety by leaving criminals just out of jail to their ‘own devices’. Having effectively two different probation services at local level seems to be a recipe for disaster with confused accountability, increased bureaucracy and a danger of offenders being able to ‘slip through the cracks’.

      It is not just those within the industry that are opposed to the reforms; The Justice Committee, appointed to examine the policy of the Ministry of Justice, have raised serious questions about the reforms in their recent report regarding the heavily criticised ‘payment by result’ system and the overall cost of the reforms.

      Labour have been more than forthcoming with their distaste of the scheme, the shadow Justice Minister Sadiq Khan describing it as a ‘reckless gamble with public safety.’ Khan has written to the Ministry of Justice asking that the contracts be held up on the basis it is wrong for a government to make such an important decision right before a general election, making it extremely difficult for Labour to reverse the reforms if they were to get into power.

      The fact that amongst all this scepticism and anger the reforms were still pushed through shows the tenacity of Mr Grayling himself. The plans are to go ahead with bidding ongoing, hopefully to be finalised by earlier next year. However, as far as effectiveness is concerned, it is yet to be seen whether the proposals are as dangerous as the sceptics suggest or whether Grayling is correct in standing by his policies amidst such criticism. One thing is for sure, whether for the better or for the worse these developments mark a significant change away from this century old system, a system which regardless of the outcome of these recent reforms, we are unlikely ever to return to.

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    3. It is what you might call the American nightmare. A man steals a $2 can of beer, and gets caught. He’s then sentenced to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet for a year. This, it turns out, is no free lunch.
      The man ends up owing the company that makes the ankle bracelet – Sentinel Offender Services – more than a thousand dollars in fees and late payment penalties. He sells his blood plasma to make payments but cannot raise enough. Subsequently, a Georgia court jails the man, not for stealing a can of beer, but for failing to cough up the debt he owes Sentinel.

      Where once probation was a public service provided free to offenders, now a number of US states outsource the job to private companies, such as Sentinel, who are free to charge probationers for their own supervision. Many Americans who got into trouble with the law in the first place because they ran out of money – failing to renew a driver’s licence, for example – end up owing far more to the companies that oversee their probation.

      Only in America, eh? Yes and no. The UK Ministry of Justice is in the process of privatising its probation services, and guess who’s in the running for a contract in 6 of the 21 package areas? Why if it isn’t those ticklesome folk at Sentinel. For the moment, there’s no sign that the "offender-funded" model they pioneered will cross the pond. But from 2015 – if all goes to plan – private companies will be responsible for the probation of more than two-thirds of released prisoners.

      Right now, all is not going to plan. Let me refer you to a few lines from a promotional video for Crest Advisory, a firm which offers crisis communications services to any company that wants a piece of the probation pie: “Transforming Rehabilitation presents a unique set of risks to the reputations of those who want to deliver it. It’s politically controversial [and] it’s operationally challenging, a frontline public service involving vulnerable and sometimes chaotic people. In probation, when things go wrong, the results can be tragic.”

      In other words, you’d better be prepared for some extremely bad press if, say, a felon your company is supposed to be handling stabs somebody on the street. And if people have reason to believe that you were cutting corners to boost profit margins, well, you’re going to need plenty of rope to get out of that hole.

      Ex-convicts went AWOL, and worse, with probation under full state control. But on the whole the service was doing a fine job. To justify his dismantling of it, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling had to fudge statistics and dance around the fact that re-offending rates have been falling since 2006-07.

      At times, the instinctive left-wing opposition to privatisation falls foul of common sense. This is not one of those times. The Government’s own project assessment system has given Transforming Rehabilitation a "red" warning – its worst. Even putting aside ethical objections to the introduction of a profit-motive into complex social work (and they take some putting aside) commercial ones remain. There’s money to be made here, sure. But, with lives on the line, can it possibly be enough?

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  4. The web chat with grayling and co was just a load of rubbish. Staff were not told in advance that there was a word limit on questions so if your question had more words in it it was binned. In addition, they screened the questions so there were no nasty comments. Wimps the pair of them!

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    1. These are 'set pieces' that are totally stage-managed and have no value in terms of the debate. They are so utterly transparent, they have no value whatsoever. I don't know why they continue with the pretence.

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  5. As my late father would say a shower of Liary bastards!!!

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  6. The State is totally corrupt, there is a revolving door between politicians bankers and big business. Bankers and big business are writing legislation and the media see nowt. This fight is much bigger than we can imagine,Brand talks of revolution at a mass rally and nothing is said in the media!! What?

    papa

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    1. Labour to take on outsourcing groups

      By Sarah Neville and Jim PickardLabour will mount an assault on big outsourcing companies if it wins the election, reducing their role in delivering the government’s back-to-work programme and exploring a plan to force them to pay all workers more than the minimum wage in exchange for Whitehall contracts.The proposals are the latest plank in the party’s drive to end “business as usual” in the corporate world, and follow pledges to introduce an energy price freeze, rent controls, a mansion tax and a tighter cap on pension charges.The role of big providers such as Serco and G4S in delivering services for central and local government has grown under the coalition . Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, estimates that half of all public spending on goods and services goes to private providers.Public confidence in the sector has taken a hit in recent years after G4S and Serco were forced to pay back hundreds of millions of pounds to the government because they inflated bills for the electronic tagging of criminals. G4S also failed to recruit enough security guards for the London Olympics in 2012, forcing the army to step in.In an interview with the Financial Times, Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said the Work Programme – which pays providers based on how many people they get off benefits and into jobs – had failed to help the most disadvantaged.She revealed the Labour party would do away with the current system of big centrally commissioned contracts when the current tranche expired in 2015-16. Instead services would be bought at a more local level, perhaps by local authorities or local enterprise partnerships. She said that they would understand the specific barriers to work that people in their areas face and would already have strong links with local businesses.Asked if big corporate providers should be worried by the changes, she said: “Well, yes. I think we are going to challenge the status quo.”The structure of the Work Programme favours big companies able to provide the upfront investment necessary for a scheme which pays only on the basis of results. By splitting the programme into smaller contracts, Labour would get around this problem, Ms Reeves said.She added: “I would expect smaller charities and businesses to be able to get these contracts.”In a second tough message for business, Ms Reeves said the party was considering whether to require all government suppliers to guarantee that they would pay the “living wage” to their employees as a condition of receiving contracts.The living wage, defined by its proponents as one needed to cover basic living costs, is £7.65 per hour, except in London, where it is £8.80. The official minimum wage that employers legally must pay is £6.31 per hour for those over 21.Ms Reeves cited a number of Labour-run councils which she said had successfully made it mandatory for their contractors.Although companies had initially insisted they would need to be paid a higher hourly rate to afford the more generous pay levels, in at least one instance, contracts had subsequently been renegotiated with no increase in the costs. “The supplier absorbed the cost through their profit margins,” she said.Ms Reeves acknowledged the scheme was “radical” and added: “That’s why we’re looking at it and looking at the cost implications.”But at Barclays, where the living wage has been introduced, “the turnover of low paid staff has fallen dramatically, so the turnover of cleaners is something like a third of the national average. It has lowered recruitment costs and has lowered training costs and they have higher productivity,” she added.She added: “We really applaud the Labour local authorities who have done this during difficult times, when they’ve had big budget cuts.”

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  7. 2 offenders details merged into one OASys...interesting....

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    1. Not surprised anything can happen now ! I was talking to a well respected manager the conversation inevitably ended up in TR. What we are both doing led to the understanding that the NPS staff are on a total over-load and stretch of mental capacity on solely the preserve of Sex Offendeding and violence.

      Hardly room for real perspectives taking and a break from such damaging work for staff. It may well in the longer term leave many people wrecked emotionally .

      Oh Mr grayling what do you think this is about ? Its not fun now !! If you care about anything other than your Tory friends bank funds and super your super expensive wine collection and the subsidised Parliamentary club up subsidised lifestyle, have a bit more thought to what your doing to the professionals lives and homes in this bad plan and shameful Tory legacy as you lot face the out in MAY cannot come soon enough !

      Dino

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    2. I agree with you Dino over the issue of potential staff emotional burn out. Ever since I watched a very experienced PO crumble over a weekend when a sex offenders comments touched a nerve and she had no means of therapeutic debriefing at work - had to use her own contacts in her private counselling work - I made a mental note never to let my caseload be more than 30% sexual offences, and managed it by and large. I find the idea of a 100% caseload of very serious offences worrying in the longer term. After all, even the Police don't allow officers to work with those on the sex offender register for more than 2 years, so I'm told (by them). The employers duty of care on this issue of burn out should be taken very seriously.
      Deb

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  8. Regretably, I am forced to conclude that Mr G does not care. That's not some snide sniping whinge, I can simply observe that things that bother other people don't trouble him. It is no good appealing to his conscience as, sadly, it appears he does not have one, or, if he does, it is attuned to an entirely different set of values to most other peoples'.

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  9. here's the latest from the NorthWest a statement from Annette Hennesssey & Kevin Robinson, CEO CRC Lancs/Cumbria/Merseyside

    As you know we have always aimed to bring you the latest news and developments within the TR agenda as soon as possible.

    Yesterday we were formally informed that The Manchester College were unsure about continuing with the competition bid to deliver probation services across Cumbria Lancashire & Merseyside, which needs to be submitted by this Monday 30th June. We understand this decision is due to concerns around the commercial and legal terms within the contract. Innovo are in a joint venture and therefore cannot submit an independent bid.

    We understand that negotiations with The Manchester College have come to an end, although Innovo are still in discussions with the MOJ. Due to the ethical wall we are not aware of what is being discussed at the moment, but we expect Innovo will release a statement asap.

    It is important everyone acknowledges the hard work that Geri Byrne-Thompson, Dave Christian, David Beddow and all those involved have done, and continue to do to get to the final bid stage. This late decision by The College is a huge disappointment for the Innovo team and we would ask you to give them your support for the excellent work they have done to date.

    Ultimately, the CRCs are still in the same position of preparing our businesses for share sale and whilst this is very disappointing news it is only with your continued support, motivation and professionalism that we will be able to continue building our CRCs to make sure whoever wins the competitions get a top performing organisation. We will continue delivering the good work we have done so far and not forget our values of why we are here, to work with our service users to change their lives, reduce re-offending and protect the public.

    The End

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  10. err step forward Sodexo per chance??

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    1. they're not in the running for the NW tho or are they???

      One thing's for sure 24 hours in TR is a very long time

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  11. OK everyone who is the best person to organise a full Public Sector strike, complete shut down of public services, no one in the public sector is happy, get firemen NHS Social Services Teachers etc etc etc all in unison surely this could reach front page news it is not just NPS and CRS there needs to be a HUGE demonstration with all of us supporting each other. Please someone please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. I agree with you totally we either stand against this or get our butts shafted. Its your choice people let all make noises to our unions and stage a strike against this breaking down of the public services.

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  12. You just couldn't make this up! I was fortunate enough to find another job 3 months ago but I still read this blog because I still have friends having to work in this godforsaken mess. I applaud you all for persevering. Its more than I could do

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  13. deb - the CRC reporting instructions came from my ACO we rarely see her so I cant ask. I've looked at the email she sent them and there's no website reference on them so I don't know if it's just our area that work to this or nationally. Most of mine currently on 6wkly reporting if they have a requirement that runs alongside supervision - its bloody marvellous!!!

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    ReplyDelete