Tuesday, 10 February 2015

MoJ Away Day

4th February 2015 London - Atrium Event for MoJ Staff

I think there was another question somewhere over there. Yes, next to one.

Q: Thank you very much for what has been a genuinely inspiring and motivational talk about the civil service and I think what you identified what makes the civil service a really great place is how we recognise achievements and success and build upon them, but what I think is equally important about what makes the civil service unique in providing an exceptionally good place to work and a good service for all is how we can recognise some of our limitations and our failures, but ultimately respond to them.

And on a personal level we are told often to do that. And I was just wondering if personally in your capacity during your tenure have you had to deal with, some failure or policy that hasn’t quite gone to plan, and really identified some things that you're not quite happy with; some criticism and how you responded to that on a personal level?

Ursula Brennan: If you're – if you're addressing that question – well …

Chris Grayling: I think, you know …

Ursula Brennan: … all of us could answer that one.

Chris Grayling: 
Yeah we could all – we could certainly all answer it. I mean I think, look, if you take some examples, we have had some interesting times with legal aid reform, we have taken some decisions and then untaken some decisions because we thought actually we got it wrong.

I think what I would say to all of you is that there is never a shame in changing your mind, deciding you think you've got something wrong and taking a different – a different tack. Equally, there's never a shame in trying something and getting it wrong.

So I do think that and I've said it one or two times over the years up here, that what I don’t want this to be is a department where the culture is about caution. You – we can't deliver change in difficult times without being bold. And I think, you know, that transforming rehabilitation is a case in point.

There are lots of people sitting over the cabinet office and elsewhere who thought this was ridiculous, couldn’t possibly be done in the time frame, and we shouldn’t have even tried, but we went for it and we did it. And that’s to my mind what this department should be about, we won't always get it right, we’ll individually take decisions that are wrong, we’ll collectively take decisions that are wrong, but the only way we’re gonna really face up to the challenges that we've faced over the last two and a half years and will carry on facing in the years ahead is to be bold in response.

Nobody in this room should ever feel scared to be bold in trying to tackle a problem.

Ursula Brennan: I think actually there's an interesting thing that if you are at the top of an organisation, sometimes the only things you seem to see are the things that are going wrong so I can think of lots of – lots of examples of things where I've felt we didn’t get that right, and sometimes they're big things, like the problem we had with G4S and Serco on our commercial capability.

That was a thing that we got wrong. When we delve in – delved in to it and looked at it we realised that there was a whole set of things we needed to do to improve. Earlier this week the executive team sat down and looked at what we’re now doing to improve our capability to manage commercial contracts, and it's just hugely impressive how people took that problem, and yes we had to own up to what we’d done wrong and we had to account for it, and we had some tough times accounting for it, ministers and officials owning up to what happened there.

But what we've done now is really to take that, to learn from it, to improve our skills, to bring in more people with more skills, to train the people that we have, really to focus on individual contracts and ask ourselves ‘What do we need to do to get it right?’

People talk a lot about learning from failure, I think that’s a really good example of something we got wrong but where what we've done in response to it has taken us leaps and bounds ahead of where many other departments are in relation to contract management.

Simon Hughes: Okay, I'd like to add a word or two just to complement that. Look, in a coalition government things are by definition a bit more interesting. And as a liberal democrat surrounded by all these right wing Tories, then, you know, there's a bit of a challenge.

But tribute to the Secretary of State, I think the reality is we have honest conversations and I can testify to the fact that for example if we have realised something needed to be adjusted we have sought a way to adjust it. There have been bits of the legal aid system where we have moved. Not – we haven't pulled it up by the roots.

Give you one little example, we've been working on whether we can put back in to public expenditure the very simple DNA test to discover who is the dad in a family case, rather than the Victorian contest in the courts which is, to be honest, not something we should be doing. And – and it's going to change because we have realised that we need to do that and we have had the conversation and we've worked out how to do it. I think my frustration is often that we can't do much more much more quickly, and the reality is we need huge amounts of extra work to make sure women in the criminal justice system have better opportunities for work and housing and so on, that – that they don’t go back in to the cycle.

It's a shared objective, it's not an objective where we’d be in a different place. There are things that we need to promote better, we’re just about to do the campaign on the office for the public guardian to promote people planning ahead so that they have enduring powers of attorney, lasting powers of attorney and make wills. We've stopped going ahead with some ideas for fee changes because we changed our mind. We – it was justified in logic but it wasn't justified in political relationship between us as a department and the public.

So just to reassure you, perpetually we do – we are questioned about whether we’re doing the right thing, and sometimes we’re very clear that we are. Secure colleges, for example controversial; labour party saying, they would not go ahead, we’re clear that sending people in to places which are more – look like prisons when you're 15 and are about custody and repression rather than about education and training is wrong.

And we have to be bold sometimes, and even bolder, probably all of us would like to be even bolder than we’re able to be given the constraints. We also share the view that sadly there won't be any more money in the next parliament for the MOJ, time will be hard whoever the ministers in the department. And we have to absolutely confront that. I would love that there was, if we pay off the deficit and the economy is booming hopefully your pay will be better and be more money for the MOJ, but it's not gonna be there for the next few years.


  1. There is a big difference between doing something and the consequences of those actions. Will you still be around when the shit hits the fan with it Chris Grayling? Probably not.

  2. So did any of you get performance bonuses Dame Ursula?
    ( for destroying the award winning public sector probation....)

  3. what a load of total baloney and self serving pats on the back

  4. "And that’s to my mind what this department should be about, we won't always get it right, we’ll individually take decisions that are wrong, we’ll collectively take decisions that are wrong, but the only way we’re gonna really face up to the challenges that we've faced over the last two and a half years and will carry on facing in the years ahead is to be bold in response."

    I'm not sure that's an Apple, Microsoft or Tata approach - "however wrong we are individually or together, just remain bold as brass & all will be okay."

    It smacks of confidence tricksters & utter BULLSHIT. Public School principles writ large - be bold, believe in yourself regardless, stick to what you've been told and you can blag your way anywhere; and your chums will look after you. Do NOT let the side down or you'll be excluded.

  5. Jim, you get invited to some events don't you !
    Hob nobbing with the ministerial team in London ....whatever next????

  6. Ooo-err, you'd better be aware of this then...

    "John O'Connor, a 33-year-old from Ealing in West London, has been found guilty of scamming bookies out of a total of £10,000. He developed a technique to ensure he couldn't lose. He would place a bet, and then distract the cashier. He would pepper them with questions, place a series of small and obscure bets at the same time, or create a disturbance. These were delaying tactics, so that the race he was betting on would be over before he had time to hand the cash over. The reason it's known as the 'slow count' is because traditionally the gambler would take forever counting his money out.

    In Connor's case, if his bet won, he'd give his stake to the cashier and demand his winnings - or pretend he had already paid his stake and ask for his prize. If it lost, he would leave without ever paying the stake.

    It serves as a useful reminder to us all how dangerously believable these charismatic and persuasive con artists can be."

    Does it sound like a recent scam or con artist you might have been aware of?

  7. Meanwhile back at the DTV not for profit CRC branc, this weeks announcement of only a small number of job losses expected through natural wastage seen as welcomed news, jobs secure for next 12 months. Well what we do know is there are a number of PO staff jumped ship back to NPS prior to deadline date of the forbidden sale, what is not being said is how many. Perhaps NAPO Branch locally and indeed Nationally should ask the question how many staff were sifted across the divide to CRC pre share sale, how many and at what grade in each CRC were given EVR, dates of leaving (as some post share sale) and how many staff and at what grade in each CRC area are in post after all EVR depart post share. If you equate the original staff split from NPS to CRC and break it down to Senior Management, Corporate Services, Middle Managers, Case Administrators to front line POs/PSOs, you may well be slightly overwhelmed by reality. Hot off press news, no more NOMS money left in the pot for EVR for anyone hoping to get it, any future redundancy payments now down to CRCs, guess we all know what that means. Post share briefings in DTV set the tone, if you are not on board now is the time for a career change. Interesting message when combined with this is your opportunity to use professional judgement. Yes there is a "but" it has to meet the defined model set despite this still apparently being defined by 'staff' focus groups.The old DTV trust claimed they could deal with the supervision of under 12 month prisoners at no extra cost, yet now the private, not for profit DTV CRC with less staff, the promise of reduced estates, the reality of reduced supervision of offenders, a further reduction in staff in next 12 months (albeit) supposedly through natural wastage instill confidence for the public, taxpayer, victims or offenders. DTV CRC is not unique in this, other than their claim to be not for profit, they may not have shareholders in the same way other CRCs contracted profiteers may have but they are in the race to gain and make money for the execs.

    1. Thanks very much indeed for this update about DTV - it would be great to have similar reports from other CRCs. Interestingly, I've heard that the same sort of thing happened in West Yorks with 15 PO grade staff transferring to NPS at the 11th hour in order to protect accrued service, but immediately seconded back to the CRC. Is this typical of other areas?

  8. Off subject but why are Lurking Winks working in Middle East? http://www.workinglinks.co.uk/about_us/work_for_us/current_vacancies.aspx

  9. " This is the programme that virtually nobody else in Whitehall thought was deliverable"
    Grayling and his disparaged nodding dogs are so deluded and out of touch. Ask anyone on the frontline or managing the shambles . There is a problem on every corner be it CRC or NPS . Breakdowns everywhere in communication two entities drifting off like icebergs in different directions. Failing interfaces where there were no interfaces before . The problems and issues this has created could really not be made up!
    It will fail apart in months not fit for purpose just like the SOS who is by far the worst minister in a generation if not the last century.
    Dream on SOS you will be gone in May