There's nothing like an impending election to flush out the true colours of politicians, together with an unbelievable quantity of utter bollocks that ranges from the blatantly untrue, to the completely ignorant. First off there's this from the 'Keep Probation Public, not Private' facebook page:-
It is simply not true that we "sold off" the probation service. Both Simon and I have been strong supporters of the service and the difficult job probation officers do in our criminal justice system.
The Conservatives had been critical of probation in opposition and, given a free hand, there is little doubt that they would have abolished the service. It was the Liberal Democrats who prevented them from doing so. Under our influence the most serious cases have been retained for the National Probation Service. For the first time we now have a National Probation Service. Probation was always the poor relation of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) with the Prison service being the dominant partner (there was not a single probation officer on the NOMS main board). The reforms we have brought in provide flexibility and provide for "through the gate" and post sentence supervision for offenders serving less than 12 months whilst retaining serious case supervision and court assessments for the new national service. Provision has also been made for the creation of a Chartered Institute of Probation which would give enhanced professional status for probation officers.
The new structure provides for the active participation of NGOs, Charities and the Voluntary Sector in offender rehabilitation - and many have taken the opportunity to become involved. I believe the reforms we made will deliver a better service, particularly for those serving short sentences (the most prolific re-offenders) and will allow the Probation Service to go forward with enhanced status and increased responsibility.
Given the financial crisis we inherited, the alternative would have been draconian cuts which would have undermined probation with non of the benefits of our reforms. So to say we "sold off" the probation service is to replace facts with a slogan.
In the Clacton Gazette, Tory turn-coat Douglas Carswell MP ably demonstrates his complete ignorance of the criminal justice system:-
Meat cleaver attacker who was on licence 'should never have been free to commit horrific crime'
A BRAVE couple who helped to save a neighbour after discovering her lying bleeding in the street have blamed the Probation Service for allowing her attacker to be freed. Mum-of-four Ashley Arnold was found in the road near her home after being attacked with a meat cleaver by boyfriend Kerry Roberts. Neighbours Bryan and Margaret Whitcomb rushed to her aid. They called for the police and helped give her first aid until paramedics arrived.
Mr Whitcomb said Roberts should never have been free to commit the horrific attack on his then girlfriend. He was on licence at the time, after being jailed for six years for setting fire to a former girlfriend’ s home. “I don’ t think Roberts should have been out on licence,” said Mr Whitcomb. “I blame probation for letting him out – they should have kept him in. The man clearly needed help. I have spoken to the poor woman since. She’s terribly scarred, but said she's getting over it."
MP Douglas Carswell also hit out at the probation service. He said: “How many horrendous crimes does someone have to commit before probation realises someone has to be locked up? What we need is a criminal justice system that punishes people and sticks to that punishment. Probation has had a long history of encouraging criminals to move to our area and they seem to be on the side of the offender, not the law-abiding majority."
The Ministry of Justice said offenders given determinate prison sentences are released on licence at the halfway point of their sentence. The remaining half is served in the community on licence where they are subject to strict conditions and controls. If offenders breach these they are liable to be recalled to prison.
A spokesman said: "Our sympathies are with the victim and her family following this horrific crime. Public protection is our priority and we are determined to have the best possible systems in place to supervise offenders in the community and protect the public. In all cases of serious further offending, a review is carried out to identify any learning for the management of future cases."
Meanwhile the Tories proper, in the shape of Francis Maude, continue to demonstrate their pernicious ways as campaigning gets going in earnest. This from Civil Service World:-
Lucy Powell brands Francis Maude reform update a 'pre-election union-bashing exercise'
The government's reforms to trade union activity in the civil service have saved £26m a year, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has announced, but Labour branded his latest update a "pre-election union-bashing exercise".
Ministers have moved to reduce the amount of paid time off that reps working in departments spend on union activity, arguing they "cannot be exempt from the current cross-government drive for efficiency". They have also vowed to end the automatic deduction of union dues from civil servant's salaries, known as 'check-off'.
Updating MPs today, Maude hailed progress in reducing the number of officials in the public sector working on union matters. "Today I can tell the House that the cost of trade union facility time has dropped by nearly 75% from £36m in 2011 to just over £10m now, saving taxpayers £26m a year," Maude told the House.
He added: "The cost has fallen from 0.26% of the pay bill to just 0.07% for the latest rolling year to date, well below the benchmark we set of 0.1%. I can also reveal that the number of full-time trade union officials on the public's payroll has fallen from 200 to just eight today.
"The civil service is now over a fifth smaller like-for-like than it was in 2010, and I expect the overall number of representatives to continue to fall over the coming years."
Maude revealed that Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood had written to the permanent secretaries of government departments to "remind them" of their obligation to end payroll check-off. And he said eight departments - including HMRC and the Ministry of Defence - had "served notice to the trade unions" that they plan to stop the practice.
But his statement was criticised by Labour's Lucy Powell, who said the government's reform attempts were politically motivated. "There is absolutely nothing new in this statement today and one wonders what his motives are," the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office said.
Maude rejected the charge, saying the government recognised that the presence of trade union officials in department was "helpful" in the "resolution of disputes and grievances. What we're concerned with here is the abuse of it,” he said. “And the abuse of paid time-off in facility time for people, large numbers of civil servants, at the public expense to attend union conferences with the expenses paid, that is not acceptable. And that is what we have called time on."
So, a saving of £26 million to be trumpeted, but not quite so much publicity for this as revealed by The Register:-
Gov departments still splashing BILLIONS on big-ticket IT projects
Mad Frankie Maude's one-time Cabinet Office axemen fling cash around like confetti
Big Whitehall departments got the green light to splash more than a billion pounds on IT projects last year, data analysis by The Register can reveal. A total of £1.4bn was handed out to the six largest government departments according to their spend exemption data, which is made available as part of the government's commitment to publish all spending over £25,000. The money was in addition to the cost of running IT, with the same six spending £2.3bn just to keep the screens on in 2013/14.
Since 2010 all spending above £5m has to go through the Cabinet Office for approval. The most expensive project to get the go ahead was a £257m seven-year ERP shared services programme for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). This was for the department to join the Cabinet Office's outsourced shared services centre from November 2014.
It followed an embarrassing £56m IT write-off of the MoJ's own shared services programme last year. The cost of the new programme also includes extensions and upgrades to MoJ IT systems and Oracle licences. The Department for Work and Pensions was given approval for £365m worth of projects. Yet the DWP also has one of the poorest records for IT write-offs since the spending approvals were introduced.
The DWP may have to can all but £34m in IT of nearly £700m spent on its disastrous Universal Credit project, according to government spending watchdog the National Audit Office. The NAO has also said the Cabinet Office's Government Digital Service saved £91m in 2013/14 via the spend controls. This was less than the department had initially claimed. In the last 12 months the government wasted more than £100m on failed or cancelled IT projects, according to the Tax Payers' Alliance last month.
Of course probation staff in the NPS are now civil servants and both Napo and Unison have been given cursory notice about check-off:-
Check-off facility within Ministry of Justice/NOMS/NPS
In December 2013 the Cabinet Office asked departments to review the provision of check-off facilities to their trade unions. Following a management review of the check-off facility the Ministry of Justice is minded to remove it for the following reasons:
1. There is no statutory obligation for employers to provide this service and in principle we believe that the trade unions and their members should make arrangements for the collection of subscriptions between themselves without using the employer as an intermediary. Further, we do not believe that there would be any detrimental impact on any employee as a result of withdrawing check-off as any member of staff who currently subscribes to a union via payroll deduction will easily be able to pay their subscription via an alternative method and continue their union membership.
2. The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 places a new statutory obligation on unions to provide an annual membership audit certificate (MAC) to the certification officer. The removal of check-off would align with this obligation in that unions alone would be in control of their membership data.
3. The administration of check-off needs to comply with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and if MoJ was to breach its legal obligations in this regard it could find itself at risk of an Employment Tribunal claim. Withdrawing check-off would eliminate this risk.
This letter formally opens consultation regarding our proposal to remove the check-off facility across MoJ and its agencies. The consultation period will close on 23 March 2015. A one hour meeting has been arranged on 4 March at 15:00 to discuss the matter in room 5.12A, Clive House and all unions are invited to send one representative per union (or per bargaining unit for NOMSTUS & PSJIC). I would be grateful if you confirm a name to Alicia John (Alicia.firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition you are welcome to provide comments in writing via your NOMS ER lead contact.
We acknowledge that a decision to remove check-off would result in you needing to communicate with your members around alternative methods for paying their subscriptions. If the final decision is that check-off will be removed we would provide three months’ notice which would enable you to engage with your members and ensure they have alternative payment arrangements in place before the removal of check-off. If required, we would also be willing to provide reasonable workplace access for your reps to communicate with members however paid facility time would not be provided for this trade union activity.
Deputy Head of NOMS Employee Relations