Monday, 29 September 2014

A Way Forward

In the interests of transparency, the following is the text of an email by Joanna Hughes sent over the weekend to Napo's leadership and outlining a positive way forward regarding a possible legal challenge. She has promised to keep us all informed as to the response.

Dear Ian, Dean, Yvonne and Chris,

This is extremely important and I hope that you can get back to me as soon as possible. As I am sure you are aware, Napo members are increasingly upset and desperate about the stalling of any meaningful action on a Judicial Review and they are now realising that there is little realistic chance of the union's leadership having any positive news on this issue. It has seemed to many members as if this were our last chance to mount a legal challenge and, as share sale approaches, the lack of hope is now stirring up passions. I think I mentioned the necessity of hope in our first ever conversation and it is now well and truly fading. 

There are a number of reasons put forward as to why a legal challenge has stalled and these include saving the money for redundancy payments and the possibility of a merger with another union. As you can imagine, this is no comfort for Probation workers losing their career and livelihood and ultimately, means there will be no Napo as well. It is also now known how much money has been spent in legal fees, with little to show for it.  I believe there is increasing evidence that the argument that it is too risky and you do not want to waste members' money is not finding agreement with the membership. Although not consulted on for a view, believe me people are desperate to spend their subs on a chance of stopping this nightmare.  

I am afraid to say that a head of steam is gathering for a vote of no confidence in the General Secretary at the AGM because the members feel so let down by the leadership. In my view this would be disastrous and a public relations gift to our enemies like Chris Grayling. In my view this must be avoided at all costs and for this reason I feel it's vital that Napo urgently seeks a second legal opinion in order to calm the membership and offer some real hope that something can be done.

I know that both Edward and Dean have spoken to Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx and he has indicated that he is willing to brainstorm ideas for a Judicial Review with a group that includes myself and Dean. He would need all the legal advice and information sent to him before the meeting and he has costed this at £5000. This strikes me as a very sensible and positive way forward that will help to defuse the high level of ill-feeling and mistrust that is clearly growing. It is common practice for organisations such as Napo to ask for a second opinion and I believe this offer should be grasped before we are faced with uncomfortable motions at the AGM. 

I am therefore asking that instructions be given to Mr Xxxxxxxx and payment authorised to go ahead with a brainstorming session to review work undertaken to date and come up with possible ideas for a legal challenge. I anticipate that he would like Dean to be present in addition to myself and whomever else you might feel appropriate.  Once instructed, he has indicated that he could work quickly and offer an appointment the following week. 

As you have probably heard, I understand that the share sale is now in December, so we have a bit of time but need to move very fast. Mr Xxxxxxxx indicated to me that in one of his conversations with Napo, he was told that (deleted so as not prejudice any possible action). In view of the urgency, I'd very much appreciate an early indication as to whether Napo can proceed with this offer and ideally by Thursday at the latest. If you have any questions do not hesitate to get back to me.

Best wishes

Joanna Hughes

62 comments:

  1. Well done Joanna and others who have this offer together. £5k is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall cost for the Special Meeting in Birmingham which was ineffective, let's wait for the response.

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  2. Definitely and thanks for sharing this with us. I am not sure what mechanism is needed to agree spending this sum but I anticipate that the excuse will be that they couldn't go ahead without balloting members

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  3. Well done Joanna. It's a shame NAPO didn't think it reasonable to ask for a second opinion. As leader IL should be doing whatever it takes to fight TR. Not only would members expect our funds to be used in this manner but if my office is anything to go by, many would also pay towards a JR fund if extra was needed. IL and co are so out of touch with what their members want. Get this sorted ASAP.

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  4. if all NAPO members cancelled subs for a couple of months and paid them into a basic bank account then we'd have the money. But having said that why the heck should we - for example, I've paid subs for 20 years and only ever used them locally twice for sickness and to sort a dispute out.

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    1. Whilst you may have only directly called upon reps twice,your subs helped pay for the assistance given to other members too and for national negotiations on pay and t&c

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  5. Thanks Joanna. Obviously "next week" is the week of AGM-if there is no acceptance of this offer then efforts to sort out the wording of an EM and sorting out speakers would need sorting out.

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    1. As anon 08:14 just wanted to apologise for repetitive use of "sort out" above. Just wanting to make point members will need to be well organised!

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  6. Think NPS was the safest option? This from 'Whitehall Monitor':

    "This is only the second quarter since Spending Review 2010 where the Civil Service has grown compared to the previous one. This is because 9,100 probation staff are counted as civil servants for the first time, having joined the National Offender Management Service (part of MoJ) from the National Probation Service on 1 June. (The only other quarter with an increase, Q2 2013, occurred due to 6,000 staff from government organisations being counted as civil servants for the first time.)

    Our graph has numbers increasing by 2,940 from the previous quarter, while the ONS figures report a 2,060 rise. This is because MoD has revised its figures for the previous quarter to include some of that increase, while our figures show it all in this quarter.

    In its June 2012 Civil Service Reform Plan, the government committed to reducing the Civil Service by around 23% over the course of the Parliament. The reclassification of probation staff means that, for the first time, the government is not on course to meet this target. However, the civil service is down 70,120 staff (FTE) since Spending Review 2010, and – the probation staff increase aside – cut staff numbers during the last quarter (indeed, by the same percentage as the previous quarter).

    DWP is the largest department with just over 80,000 staff, MoJ now the second largest."

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    1. Thinking in terms of "safer" is a huge mistake - the Tories hate everything they don't understand, and they especially don't understand the concept of public service: the idea that anyone could do something for motives other than making money. No-one is safe under this contemptible government.

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    2. Especially since The Chancellor has announced further cuts to public spending next year and given the above, civil servants are the main saving they can make. Safe in NPS? I have never thought so and have regularly posted to that effect.

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  7. Anon 8.17. Don't worry it's being 'sorted'

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  8. Brill Joanna as always. Good luck with it and Thankyou.

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  9. I remember some months ago, although I can't recall the specifics, that the MoJ gave a press release expressing disappointment at NAPO because the union had already agreed the terms that they now were complaining about.
    NAPO responded by saying that they had not infact reached any such agreement. Nothing more was said on the matter.
    For the MoJ to proceed with the sale of probation services on the basis of conditions agreed with the union, when infact no such agreement was ever reached would be worthy of legal challange in itself, with the outcome clear to see before hand. You did agree x,y and z, or you made no such agreement.
    My own personal view is that it's what NAPO have already agreed during the negotion process (unwittingly or not) that is making legal challange difficult now and the prospects of success very low.

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    1. Similar thoughts have passed through my mind. Napo signed a framework agreement with the rider that they did not agree with the split which I would have thought was the whole purpose of the agreement anyway. But, seemingly, it does not kill off JR but it may, who knows, weaken arguments against, as presumably the absence of the other unions will also do. £5000 for a second opinion seems small fry in view of what's already been spent on out former general secretary's legal fees and payoff.

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    2. Annon 11:38
      Maybe you've just hit the nail on the head!!
      Where can the full terms of agreement between the MoJ and NAPO be accessed?
      Surely that can't be clandestine like everything else seems to be?

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    3. The only agreement is the staff protections and transfer agreement and remember Napo are not the only trade union involved in such

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  10. Thank you Jim and Joanna, this may be where the fight back starts.

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  11. There are others of us who are discussing issues too but we need to remain anon for the time being

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  12. Off topic, but worth noting.

    http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29406199

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    1. The Howard League for Penal Reform found about 900 children in England and Wales were put under intensive supervision upon release last year.

      It says this additional punishment is difficult to comply with, resulting in some children being sent back to jail.

      The Ministry of Justice said the programme helped offenders rehabilitate through education.

      The Howard League submitted freedom of information requests to every local authority in England and Wales.

      It found that between 903 and 918 children were awarded "intensive supervision and surveillance" (ISS) after being released from prison at the midpoint of a Detention and Training Order, the most common jail sentence given to children.

      The detention orders allow some children to be released early but require all children to be released at the midpoint under supervision.

      The increased supervision programme involves 25 hours of specified activities a week, electronic monitoring and a night time curfew.

      As many of the children are not in full-time education, the 25-hour weekly programme involves modules such as education and training, interpersonal skills and changing offending behaviour.

      The offenders given increased supervision were originally jailed for crimes such as street robberies.

      The Howard League's report, "They couldn't do it to a grown-up: Tagging children without due process," says ISS conditions can be so lengthy and onerous that children find it almost impossible to comply.

      Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: "We are punishing children repeatedly over several years for a single offence and this cannot be fair.

      "Some youth offending teams are applying curfews and tags on children in a mistaken belief that this somehow helps them, whereas the truth is that it is a fast track back to jail.

      "We think it could account for hundreds of children ending up in prison each year, not for what they have done or for public safety, but because they go stir crazy on their second or third curfew and tag for an offence committed months or even years ago.

      "The only people profiting from this practice are the private security companies supplying the tags."

      The report also found the use of ISS varied across England and Wales - 26 local authorities issued an ISS to 10 or more young people, while a further 26 issued none.

      The charity is calling on the government to end the use of midpoint ISS.

      It says the Ministry of Justice spent £1.4m on private security companies tagging children on Detention and Training Orders in 2010-11.

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  13. http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2014/sep/29/programme-male-prisoners-avoid-reoffending-release

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    1. Brian was 17 when he was jailed for the first time. A career in commercial burglary gave him the lifestyle he craved – but also led to one prison sentence after another.

      “I’m 38 now and have been out for almost three years, a record for me,” he says. “Offending gave me an almost footballer’s lifestyle – Mercedes cars and everything – but I also spent too much time inside. I got to the point where I realised my kids were also doing the time and that I had to change.”

      It was shortly after leaving HMP Manchester for the last time that Brian learned about the Salford Prison Project, the programme he credits with helping him move on. Run by Salford’s independent Unemployed and Community Resource Centre, it supports male prison leavers to reintegrate into society.

      Participation is voluntary and staff often recruit inmates before release and then meet them at the prison gate. Initial priorities are usually securing accommodation, access to benefits and drug or alcohol support, after which the mentoring side starts. Group activity sessions range from cooking to tennis and morning gym sessions and project staff keep tabs on participants – knocking on doors to find them if needs be – to check what they need. They help with anything from CV writing and finding training courses to lifts to social service contact centres so they can see their children.

      About 25 men are currently on the programme, with up to 30 more expected to join when they are released over the coming months. Some move on when they become more stable but others, such as Brian, take on an informal mentoring role – helping to motivate their peers to stay on the straight and narrow.

      Lee Wakeham, 38, one of the two project officers, understands how hard it can be to move on from prison – having himself served two terms for anger-related offences.

      “The vast majority of people in prison are victims of circumstances that are completely out of their control,” he says. “I grew up in care and was abused by my foster father, and because of that I became a very angry young man. I’d drink a lot and look for fights and I ended up going to prison twice.

      “I know how tough it is when people get out – they may be homeless, have problems with drugs or alcohol, no money, no food, clothes or washing facilities, mental health issues and a poor social network if they have one at all – and they constantly get judged on their record. They may be unaware of some of these issues or simply have no idea where to start, so we’re quite hands on with trying to help. We do whatever that person needs – there’s no one size fits all.”

      The project began in 2009 as a partnership with HMP Manchester to pick up serial offenders who missed out on probation service support because they had served less than a year. Support from the Big Lottery Fund – they are halfway through a four-year, £434,000 grant – enabled the project to include other prisons and take residents from other parts of Greater Manchester.

      From next April, all inmates will leave jail on licence but the kind of wrap-around support offered by the Salford Prison Project will continue to be needed.

      Their results speak for themselves: over the past two years the re-offending rate for programme participants has been less than 9%, compared to an average of about 60% for those serving sentences of less than 12 months.

      Wakeham says: “The sheer scale of what you have to do to change your life when you leave prison can be overwhelming. If someone had told me in 1997 that I’d now have a job, house, car and take regular holidays I would never have believed it. I couldn’t have seen how I could get there because it was so far removed at that point.

      “All the guys we work with say they want a job. And we say:’Great, but what are you going to do to get yourself to the point where you are ready to work?’ We break it down into small, manageable goals.”

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    2. Brian for one is convinced that his involvement has been central to his success. Unable to work due to a head injury, he now volunteers to take local youngsters to the gym and is living back with his girlfriend and two of his three children. He is waiting for clearance to deliver talks about his experiences to inmates at HMP Risley in Warrington.

      “I haven’t looked back since I met Lee,” he says. “I think I’m doing really well and honestly can’t see myself going back to jail again. I’ve done it myself but I think the key thing is having someone who believes in you. With probation, you sometimes feel that they’d quite like to send you back to prison. But Lee gives me the encouragement not to continue committing crimes. They say a leopard can’t change its spots, but this one has.”

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    3. It's one thing operating such a project whilst in reciept of funding.
      However, its a different kettle of fish when operating a business model where you have to actively make the money to pay the bills.

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    4. This project sounds great, and I'm sure it would be good to have more like it, but the crucial words are at the start of the third paragraph: "Participation is voluntary". These people all want to attend, and as such are much less likely to reoffend anyway. Looking at their relative reconviction rate is meaningless: it's comparing apples with very well-motivated oranges.

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  14. `As you have probably heard, I understand that the share sale is now in December, so we have a bit of time but need to move very fast'

    Latest indications are that contracts will be let from 1st of February 2015 :(

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  15. Six weeks from sale to contract? Unsustainable.

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  16. Looks like they will announce bidders on 19th dec. Just before everyone is on leave and hardly anyone to kick up a fuss.

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    1. Pre-holiday bad news is a time-honoured trick of senior management in my area - or even just 4:30pm on a Friday. They tried sneaking the sifting news in over Christmas last year, didn't stop much fuss-kicking from what I could see.

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    2. You're Northumbria, aren't you!

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    3. Grayling speaks at the tory party conference tomorrow, maybe a few clues about timescales to be gleened then?

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    4. @ Anon 19:55 Nope - way way way off!

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  17. Isn't it that they announce who has won the bid for each area in Dec? If anon 13:23 is right 6 weeks for winners to take over running of the CRCs is incredibly tight

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    1. not a thing will change we'll just carry on as before. CRC owners will be of the mindset 'if it aint broke don't pay to fix it'. That is why CRCs are all working with new systems and partnership agencies now.

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    2. it will be a slow creep of changes, increased volunteers and reducing PO Staff.

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    3. admin in our CRC office moaning cos they have to open cases remotely for other offices miles away - they better get used to it. Although officially based in X you can easily be directed to Y as and when to cover holiday/sickness or whatever (id say training but that's v unlikely).

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  18. A question for Jim.

    In order to participate in the vote of confidence, does the membership have to be in attendance at the AGM? Or will we receive ballots. I for one am not happy with the direction of travel at NAPO HQ and would happily boot out the incumbent office holders. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, am unable to attend the AGM.

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    1. This isnt Jim but here's my contribution anyway.To vote at AGM on say an emergency motion you'd have to be present. If an EM proposed a vote of no confidence it would make more sense on grounds of economy to hold it at AGM too but as Joanna says above (and Jim in earlier blog)what we need is more focused action against TR not to be offering "Grayling a public relations disaster"

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  19. What will happen to the probation buildings?

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    1. Most will not be a) wanted by CRC as too expensive and b) will then not be viable for NPS to sustain. Look out for major changes- interests of offenders and staff will not feature!!

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    2. Mothballed i guess, if CRC have to move out they have to take a small percentage of NPS staff with them. In Midlands they have a building that is hardly anyone in it already.

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    3. Most are leased. Will be used until end of lease then moved out.

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    4. They'll all stand empty and cost the MoJ a fortune just like all the empty court houses up and down the country.

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  20. Hows this for a change of job discription?

    http://m.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/11502864.Former_Verne_prison_officially_becomes_Immigration_Removal_Centre/

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  21. FROM TWITTER: _

    " Peter Oborne ‏@OborneTweets

    I will be merciless with Chris Grayling when I interview him in Hall One Cons Conf at 12.30pm tomorrow. What questions should I ask him? "

    https://twitter.com/OborneTweets/status/516557732573638656

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    Replies
    1. COMMENTS SO FAR: -

      I find the lack of ANY reference to probation significant and revealing of the lack of concern from even those who follow such things via Twitter!

      We are on our own - almost!!

      " 1. John 'Hudson' Smiley ‏@LeicsFox 8h
      @OborneTweets Is the real reason Douglas Carswell left because he was told European reforms would be a PR exercise?

      2. Financial Bear ‏@FinancialBear 8h
      @OborneTweets ask him what qualifies him for the job. He has absolutely no qualifications that I know of.

      3. Financial Bear ‏@FinancialBear 8h
      @OborneTweets what is he going to do about the serious pupillage situation?

      4. Mike Spencer ‏@MikeSpencerLaw 8h
      @OborneTweets @CPAGUK why are you making it harder for people to challenge unlawful Gov decisions?

      5. Tony Roe Solicitors ‏@TonyRoeDivorce 8h
      @MikeSpencerLaw @CPAGUK @OborneTweets What "other relevant experience" he has for the job? See @JoshuaRozenberg http://bit.ly/1BvkWyO

      6. @OborneTweets has he ever tweeted a picture of his old chap to a pretty lady on twiiter?

      7. Benjamin Redsell ‏@bredsell 6h
      @OborneTweets @RebeccaHerber44 Why not ask him to resign & let someone who knows what they're doing take his place.

      8. PJ Kirby ‏@kirby_pj 6h
      @OborneTweets how will the UK government ever be able to raise human rights issues with other governments if it abolishes HRA?

      9. PJ Kirby ‏@kirby_pj 6h
      @OborneTweets how much does the average criminal practice barrister earn after expenses?

      10. Rebecca Herbert ‏@RebeccaHerber44 6h
      @OborneTweets Ask him how running the Courts and the independent Bar into the ground helps the victims of crime he bleats on about in the DM

      11. Rebecca Herbert ‏@RebeccaHerber44 6h
      @OborneTweets Ask him why he doesn't take collective responsibility for the millions lost to outsourcing failures on his watch

      12. Christine Hill ‏@drchristinehill 6h
      Some great responses to @OborneTweets "I will be merciless with Chris Grayling when I interview him.... What questions should I ask him?”

      TO BE CONTINUED

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    2. CONTINUED: -

      13. Jane ‏@Jawapu 6h
      @OborneTweets @RebeccaHerber44 @tonycrossqc

      14. Rebecca Herbert ‏@RebeccaHerber44 6h
      @OborneTweets Ask him how much of our money he spends on lawyers, to defend his illegal decisions

      15. Jon Whitfield QC ‏@jonwhitfieldqc 6h
      @OborneTweets @RebeccaHerber44 Err - how about "given your repeated unlawful conduct why are you still lord chancellor?"

      16. Carl Gardner ‏@carlgardner 6h
      @OborneTweets Why’s it taken him so long to come up with his human rights plan, when he seems to have been about to announce it for ages?

      17. Rebecca Herbert ‏@RebeccaHerber44 6h
      @OborneTweets Ask him if he hates judicial review because he keeps losing it..

      18. PJ Kirby ‏@kirby_pj 6h
      @OborneTweets who told you ECHR could overrule UK courts and when will you correct your misunderstanding?

      19. Rebecca Herbert ‏@RebeccaHerber44 6h
      @OborneTweets Ask him if he deliberately misleads about the effect of the Human Rights Act, or whether he just doesn't understand it..

      20. Mark Gareth Davies ‏@MGDLAW 6h
      @OborneTweets "Are you worried that a rushed, knee jerk reaction forcing the new consult in a short time frame will trigger a further JR"

      21. Carl Gardner ‏@carlgardner 6h
      @OborneTweets How does his human rights plan (whatever it is) support UK foreign policy? Did the FCO have to be Hammonded into accepting it?

      22. PJ Kirby ‏@kirby_pj 6h
      @OborneTweets having been found to have acted unlawfully how unlawfully would you have to act to resign ?

      23. Gavin Phillipson ‏@Prof_Phillipson 6h
      @OborneTweets Is there not a conflict of interest in the man who keeps losing judicial review cases seeking to restrict judicial review?

      24. Carl Gardner ‏@carlgardner 6h
      @OborneTweets Will he achieve the legal aid savings he set out to make? Can he rule out new cuts?

      25. Mark Baker ‏@1630revello 6h
      @OborneTweets @RebeccaHerber44 Did Grayling and/or May lobby for Dominic Grieve to be sacked?

      26. wendy ‏@marbessa1 6h
      @OborneTweets @RebeccaHerber44 ask him how it can possibly be OK that in a supposed democracy so many people have been cut off from justice.

      27. Jonathan Black ‏@jonblackbsb 6h
      .@OborneTweets ask him how many contractors and proposed contractors in the criminal justice system are tory donors pic.twitter.com/uDycGJWeNb

      28. Colm Nugent ‏@Wigapedia 6h
      @OborneTweets @RebeccaHerber44 How would you explain your proposal to abolish the HRA, to the original (British) authors of the ECHR?

      29. Gavin Phillipson ‏@Prof_Phillipson 5h
      @OborneTweets Given his special responsibilities in relation to it what does he understand by the notion of 'the rule of law'?

      30. Rob Jacques ‏@rj7268 4h
      @jonblackbsb @OborneTweets And how many shares MoJ civil servants have in each of them?

      31. Simone Haynes ‏@Simone_PIF 4h
      @OborneTweets @PrisonUK ask him why he ignores the pleas of prison staff for more resources and education options to help do their jobs

      32. Alex Cavendish ‏@PrisonUK 4h
      @Simone_PIF @OborneTweets And the impact of staff shortages on the bullying of the weak and vulnerable in prison: http://prisonuk.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/prison-pests-3-wing-bully.html …

      33. Jane Crowley Q.C. ‏@crowley_q 2h
      @OborneTweets @RebeccaHerber44 -just set Rebecca on him

      34. Rebecca Herbert ‏@RebeccaHerber44 2h
      @crowley_q @OborneTweets I was tempted to ask..... ;-)

      35. Bill Waddington ‏@bill_wow 1h
      @OborneTweets @Jawapu Just the one . When will he resign ?

      36. Rob Jacques ‏@rj7268 37m
      @OborneTweets @Kirkabout How come Tory model of small efficient quality businesses doesn't apply to criminal solicitors?

      37. Geoffrey ‏@Geoffrey_M_B 14m
      @OborneTweets @Kirkabout Hope it's on TV. "

      ENDS

      Delete
    3. It may be more a reflection of the people who follow Peter Oborne on Twitter...

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    4. Thanks Andrew .. I have just tweeted some questions

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    5. I have asked a number of questions

      Delete
  22. People should be also aware there is a webchat on the 7 oct i think at 10:30-11:30. With Andy salacious and a wales nom drone.

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    1. A stage managed PR stunt. Doesn't fool anyone. Irritates if anything.

      Delete
  23. Preferred bidders named end Oct; due diligence til Dec; winners announced end Dec; share sale 1st Feb; transition til May; first pbr cheques issued Oct 2015; and I imagine first casualties of corporate slash & burn will start to be reported from May 2015...

    ... Grayling crowned King of the Universe by Nov 2015.

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    1. So end Oct until Dec is the bidders' chance to see how far away reality is from the crock of shite that NOMS have been selling them, then?

      Delete
  24. Thank goodness Joanna for your bravery and saying what everyone is thinking, there's nothing left to loose by bringing the motion to AGM so why didn't the G.S think of it, members should get behind this motion as it's all of our future we are trying to save, some things should never be sold for profit, members have to wake up to the bleak future ahead

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  25. Well in DLNR CRC they are offering to pay for PI subs, probably due to the lack of uptake.

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  26. Napo GLB made contact with Andrew Selous MP Minister of State at Ministry of Justice at the Conservative Party Conference - he does not seem pleased!

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1537497979795946&set=a.1377345989144480.1073741828.100006072756583&type=1

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  27. Completly off topic.

    http://leftfootforward.org/2014/09/fiddling-with-flower-pots-why-real-democracy-means-public-ownership/

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    1. We Own It launched last year to be a voice for the huge constituency of people who want public ownership of public services. For energy that’s 68 per cent of the UK population, for railways 66 per cent, Royal Mail 67 per cent, NHS 84 per cent, water 71 per cent. Who is representing this majority opinion that vital public services should be in public hands? And why isn’t it Labour?
      Our polling shows voters would be more likely to vote for a party that promotes public ownership, by a ratio of 4:1. Sixty Nine per cent of Labour voters believe the public sector is more accountable than the private sector when running public services.
      Public ownership isn’t a one size fits all model. In Paris, it means water is municipally owned by the city and run for the benefit of its people. In the US, a quarter of the energy supply is provided by cooperatives and publicly owned bodies.
      Back here in the UK, the East Coast line provides an excellent service and makes millions in profit for the Treasury at the same time. Many local authorities are bringing services in-house to improve quality and reduce cost.
      Despite this, we’ve seen the undemocratic selling off of all the public services that were left to sell: Royal Mail, children’s services, blood plasma, search and rescue helicopters. We’ve also seen public services handed to companies like G4S and Serco.
      When people think of companies like these, the first words that come to mind include ‘rubbish’, ‘dodgy’ ‘corrupt’ and ‘shambles’. It’s hardly surprising that after the Olympics, the tagging fraud and many other scandals, only 21 per cent of the public trusts outsourcing companies. People really are ‘sick of Serco’ (and the rest).
      We Own It is calling for all parties to commit to a Public Service Users Bill, so that the people affected by outsourcing and privatisation get a say. The New Economics Foundation and the Social Economy Alliance have expressed their support. Labour says it is interested in democracy – so this Bill is a great starting point, for three reasons:
      Firstly, transparency. Sadiq Khan has already promised FOI for private companies running public services, but Labour needs to go further. We should have a right to see outsourcing contracts and financial and performance data of companies running our services.
      Companies can talk about commercial confidentiality but if you’re getting public money, transparency ought to be part of the deal. The Public Accounts Committee and the CBI are both agreed that more transparency is needed.
      Secondly, accountability. The current processes of privatisation and outsourcing are old-fashioned, archaic, closed box processes where the people who are most affected by the decisions being made have no say whatsoever.
      The public rejects default privatisation by 10:1. Four out of five people want to have a say over whether public services are privatised or outsourced in the first place – this Bill would mean proper consultation about these decisions. Jon Trickett has already committed to our proposal that the public should have the right to recall a company that does a bad job.
      Thirdly, putting people first. It really does matter who delivers public services and Labour should be brave enough to say so. The public sector, cooperatives, genuine mutuals, charities, social enterprises are better incentivised to deliver care because they don’t have a conflict between taking the time to look after people and making a profit.

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    2. Our Bill would prioritise public ownership, require in-house bids and promote organisations that prioritise social value instead of profit-making multinationals. Chi Onwurah wants the public sector and organisations with a social purpose to win more contracts under Labour – that’s a start but it’s not enough.
      Of course, the Bill is just a first step. The party must go much further – a public NHS yes, but also a public railway, local cooperatives running energy, municipal ownership of water.
      Democracy is supposed to be exciting. And it won’t be exciting if Labour doesn’t tackle these big issues that people care about. People want real democracy, they want a real say, and they want public ownership.
      Privatisation is a disaster, like the sinking ship of the Titanic, and we’re all going down with it. If it’s not too much of a mixed metaphor, will Labour do more than rearrange the flower pots on the deck?

      Cat Hobbs is the director of We Own It, an independent campaign for public service users. This blog is an extract from a speech given at Labour party conference.

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    3. Well said Cat!

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  28. Never confuse opinion with fact. Seems the letter writer is guilty of this.

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