Thursday, 28 May 2015

Napo AGM

Further to my recent post on the future of the AGM, here's more from Napo HQ:-

BR 49/2015


To: Branch Chairs, Vice Chairs, Secretaries & Convenors Family Court SEC
Officers and Officials

26th May 2015

Dear Colleague


This circular is a follow up to BR46-2015 which consulted branches/section/members on a new format for AGM from 2016. The proposal is to concentrate the conference over two days, rather than spreading the business over three days as we do at present.

The options put forward are as follows:

1. Stay the same – AGM starts currently on Thursday afternoon and runs until Saturday lunch time.

2. Two day conference – Starting on Thursday morning and ending on Friday afternoon.

3. Two day conference – starting Friday morning and ending Saturday afternoon (which reduces the time members need to take off work).

Responses so far show a significant preference for option 3 – but the consultation is open until Monday 1 June, and we are eager to get as many views as possible. We would be grateful therefore, if you have not already done so, if you could circulate BR46 and this circular plus the additional information to members and ask them to respond either to the branch/Section or direct to Kath Falcon at Chivalry Road.

Additional Information

We thought it would be helpful to share additional information arising from questions already asked by members – please see the attached paper appendix 1

BR48-2015 Appendix 1

New Format AGM – 2016

We currently run a two day conference over three days – i.e. 2pm Thursday – 1pm Saturday. Prior to this (up to 2008) AGM ran from Friday to Sunday – starting late morning on Friday. The change to the current format was to address falling attendance owing to (we believed) members not wishing to give up their entire weekend. This seemed to be borne out by a revival in attendance. However, we believe it is time to review this again, given increased problems with members being able to take time of work and also in the interests of making best use of our current, stretched resources.

The two main reasons for the proposed change are therefore:


As stated in BR46-2015, the proposal is about savings, particularly in relation to the cost of venue hire, but also other cost e.g. hotels, entertainment, etc. However, it is not simply about cuts. We currently keep costs down by using seaside venues, out of season, which attract local authority subventions. The number of days hire is not a particular consideration in these venues. There has, however, been an increasing call from members for us to hold AGM in more centrally located, inner city, venues – offering easier access and travel. A two day conference would put these, more expensive venues, within our budget.

Time-off to attend

We know from feedback from both branches and individual members (particularly in relation to registration for the 2014 AGM) that there is increased pressure on members taking time off work to attend AGM. This is the main reason given by those members responding to the present consultation for favouring option 3 – a two day conference on Friday and Saturday. As one member put it ‘times are changing’.

A two day conference – practical considerations

Members have asked more detailed questions about how a two day AGM would operate.

Conference would start early on day 1 – i.e. 9am. It is understood that this would require the vast majority of attendees travelling to the venue the evening before. However even though the current start time of 2pm on the Thursday is supposed to enable members to travel on the Thursday morning we believe that the majority of members do stay overnight on the Wednesday – particularly given the geographically far flung location of the venues.

Conference would finish early on the afternoon of day 2 – i.e. 3.30pm/4.00pm.

This coupled with the more centrally located venues, would mean that almost all members would be able to travel home on day 2, rather than staying for an additional night.

It would be a more intensive/focused conference – but we believe this is something we need to take on board given the constraints of the times.

However, it is for members to decide – and we would urge branches/Section/members to let us have their views on the three proposed options ASAP and by Monday 1 June.

Well, children, if you hadn't demanded that we spend all your pocket money on JR, we might have been able to have a nice conference with jelly & ic-cream. As it is, you're left with bread & water & an early bed. And with what's left we'll treat ourselves to a bonus, because we were right!!

It is a disgrace from Napo. Another way of trying not to spend Napo's money on its members. If Napo wants to choke itself from oxygen and life blood, all they have to do is to encourage far flung branches to travel all those distances for a day and to return again, without having any networking at all costs for professional exchanges. Another reason to ask why are we paying membership subs? Napo can't be shooting their foot on this one as they have already blown themselves off! Also, this is the first time I have seen Tania Bassett's signature as we have not seen anything from her lately. Does she actually work for Napo? It's like waiting an hour for a bus and when it comes round the corner, it has the 'Not in Service' sign above the door. How does this proposal fit in her job description?

I applied to go to another conference and was told that branches have had a budget cut from Central and if I go to the AGM then I have to pay for my place at any other NAPO conference. This was an instruction and not up for discussion. I thought this must have been nationally agreed so I'm interested to hear others opinions.

Napo HQ need to be held to account - veto proposals outlined above and advise membership cancellation if they attempt to push this through. I can't speak for other areas but I do feel that management are riding rough shod over NAPO in my area. Something tells me that after the last AGM, NAPO HQ are concerned about a revolt.

And the more networking time allowed, the more likely a revolt is... real reason for above proposal to shorten the AGM?

With respect to the gainsayers, a two day conference full of business is the same 'air time' as a three day conference with two half days and one full one. Is it me, or is the amount of time available for AGM business pretty much the same on all of the proposed models? It is the travelling time that is compromised, not the business. As for networking, if management were on this kind of conference and asked for networking time, we would be calling it a 'jolly'. I see no conspiracies here, just an idea to cut costs when membership income is falling.

Stop moaning and just sign out of NAPO. Starve the union of your hard earned money which NAPO routinely wastes such as paying of a GS and a certain ministers legal fees. The leadership is poor and they make mistake after mistake for members. I ask not what you can do for your NAPO but what does NAPO do for you???

Typical. I have seen Ian Lawrence criticised for NOT wanting to go for Judicial Review and now he is criticised for incurring costs for GOING for JR. He can't win.

OK good point and well made. Leaving Napo is not the way forward though for anyone. Ian Lawrence has been well critiqued on here for his disastrous leadership if that's what you can call it. He ran like a greyhound into the power house to become involved in the development of the transfer arrangements. He was on the consultative SCCOG group and was incompetently supported in the venture by the then Joint chairs. Subsequently, the remaining one of the collapsible duo assisted him in the conflict of role as they were both new and inexperienced. We all know the inept judgement he showed by applying for role in CRC and then resigning more likely to afraid to face the voters than any disagreement with the General Secretary yet still we have no real detail on whether he was bullied out or not.

JR should have gone ahead a long time before it actually was lodged when they finally went forward having been tackled at the AGM. Much call for JR was raised on here by JB. Sadly there was no forcing motion or full debate in the AGM for the JR. It was lodged on weak issues because all the best stuff had been run out of strict time. We have not seen the full details of the case because Napo has found a self defence clause by claiming the Court ruled confidentiality. Yet none of us have seen the Court papers showing this ruling.

Use your memory if not your brain its not hard. Prior to the election there were was a real fear the cavalry were coming in the form of labour. There may have been a feeling for many we had hope. That has now gone yet we are stuck with the GS who has made some terrible mistakes. Shamefully he wont admit or concede any notion that he has not managed well! It wont be long before what is left of this union calls for him to go and go quickly. This will not be likely until the NEC grow some teeth. Most of them do nothing meaningful and actually command the top table to do anything. Farcical?

Thank you, very thorough analysis, many important points raised. What is the way forward to set new NAPO leadership in motion?

I think what I am reading is that because Napo was involved in the transfer arrangements, as they were being developed, Napo could hardly object via JR, having foolishly participated in it. They have done this through collaboration. Is this right? Am I just asking the wrong question?

I was thinking the same, but was it because IL was involved with the SCCOG group, and therefore nullifying any opposition to JR? Was that why he was reluctant?

I fear, particularly with the dubious suggestion of a further reduction in conference time (remember the Thursday starts and the Sunday finish?) will diminish further AGM's relevance to the membership. AGMs had in any case contrived to reduce member participation by staged platform debates by invited guests (all friends of Harry?). Our own debates became increasingly perfunctory with formal proposals, seconding and often passed nem con. We face the challenge of a trades union ill-structured to serve, with at least 22 employers in the criminal justice arena and with CAFCASS also. Combined areas present a challenge for Branch organisation by virtue of their size alone (though Wales impresses). Bullet biting time I think. NAPO should focus if it can on union issues.

Agreed on trade union matters and NAPO learn what being a trade union is. Sadly this may well be beyond Mr Lawrence's limited abilities. Professional issues certainly are! When Sodexo bring their machines there will not be any call in CRCs to discuss professional issues.

Wondering if JB next topic should be whether members have any confidence in the General Secretary and if, as I suspect will be the case, most have none, how we go about raising a vote of no confidence and bring in some new blood, professional who is capable of leadership, achieving results and who demands respect from the membership due to integrity? How do we begin this process? Time for action as most have had enough of the current self serving, egotistical, ambition above ability character we reward with our hard earned subscriptions, otherwise known as the General Secretary.

Also remember the frustration of wanting to progress Napo agenda at conference but lacking quoracy due to excesses of previous evening many times! NAPO do need to develop more professional approach to AGM!


  1. Can anyone expand on alleged bonus payments made to napo paid staff? On what grounds/basis were they 'earned'? How much was paid, and to who? As a PO of 20+ years' standing I've never received a "bonus", although I'm very much aware that ACO grades, ministers, senior civil servants - and now napo officials - see fit to trouser PRP bonus payments on the back of the considerable efforts of frontline staff.

  2. 2 days? 3 days? 3weeks? What does it really matter?
    Its just the same old bullshit, upbeat talk thats got no substance, and once the last member has left the hall, the exec go back to HQ to do whatever it is they do, but it wont be much of what was delivered at the AGM.
    NAPO are now focused on their own survival, it needs its membership more then its membership needs it.
    Thats not to say that staff don't need union support-they just don't need that union to be NAPO!

  3. Not on topic at all but just had my May reporting session with my OM by telephone instead of in person. In person sessions generally last 20 - 30 minutes. This telephone reporting session lasted exactly 3 1/2 minutes and would have been cut off after 2 1/2 minutes if I hadn't insisted on telling the OM a piece of good news which rounded the call out to 3 1/2 minutes. I guess this is the way forward for those monthly reporting sessions under the new owners.

  4. this is the future. After going to GP on more than one occasion for severe pain spasms on thigh, which has been increasing intermittently over last 12 years, but recently worsened considerably, I was given the phone nbr for orthopaedics at the local hospital, handed to me on a scrappy piece of paper, to refer myself.. My appointment was a planned phone call to my home from someone from orthopaedics at 8 30am, when I had to describe symptoms- very difficult with my one hand which was not holding the phone, pointing out that the pain is 'here, here and here, when I move like this or bend like that' - meaningless when the consultant, assistant, receptionist or cleaner cannot see you. She suggested it MIGHT be osteoarthritis and sent me 3 5 minute exercises- scrappy cartoon format, no sheets of information or advice or referral to a gym. The whole call took less than 5 min.

    I recall an appt in 2003 for similar, but in its earlier stages, when I was referred to the hospital ortho consultant, who examined me in underwear, took measurements and had me stood straight against a chart to check for any malformation of spine (which she did find).This was after my own GP had also examined my back, showed me the bend via a mirror) before referral to orthopaedics. After being given proper printed notes and booklet by the consultant, several photographed exercises and a specific diet leaflet to ensure I had appropriate vitamins etc, I was also advised about reducing work hours, stress alleviation and carrying heavy loads (files) on the same shoulder. I was also referred to a specialist local authority gym for 6 months free membership, where I underwent further tests (told I was the most flexible woman they had ever seen, for my age!). and was given a specific fitness programme, which was re-evaluated every week.

    I believe the care that I got then, helped to stave off the crushing pain I get now. But this is the NHS in its death throes, as is the Probation Service - every man for man/woman for him/herself, and stop whingeng when you are being hurled about (or brutally ignored) in what goes for a 'care' home.

    (I am not getting at staff in specialist hospital depts or surgeries - they struggle in increasingly inferior circs, to give their best - as do many probation staff - but we need the tories out next time!)

    1. ML.
      Your comments ring true throughout all public services GPs, schools anything you can think of is being destroyed by this Tory government.
      The success of the SNP in the last election gives me food for thought however. The last time there was this many Scots walking the floors of parliament was when James the first was king. That gunpowder plot failed. Maybe a second one may be more successful, although I have no doubt that any conspirators today would be recruited from some gaint outsourcing company such as Capita, G4S or Serco.
      We can all day dream I guess!

    2. ...mmm G4S would say they had blown up parliament when really it was still standing......

  5. I agree with the comment above about your union membership not having to be Napo. If you need personal representation, join a union. If you need collective action and representation, join any union but Napo. The service faced a fight for survival and Napo made every mistake that the coalition could have dreamt they would. See if G4s or Sodexo will take your union fees for a crap service - at least they'd fuck up for less £££s.

    1. Last years AGM was all about the lots of things NAPO were doing behind closed doors that the membership couldn't be told about because of the need to keep everything clandestine!
      I'm still clueless as to what 'things' they might have been. All I recall is a half hearted judicial review that was swapped for a bag of magic beans from Grayling and hardly a word since. No beanstalk I'm afraid!
      And if I wasn't disappointed enough in NAPO over their reluctance to step up to the plate and fight TR with a bit of passion (I wont mention the in house shennigans), we're now in a possition where the privateers don't want to abide by agreed terms and conditions regarding voluntary redundancy. NAPOs response? Wait it out until unions are stripped of their powers by the Tories, and the privateers can do what they want without fear of challange? That'll be the Tories fault, not NAPOs no doubt.
      I have a great deal of sympathy for all the hard working reps who go above and beyond, but for the EXEC? I think they've just had everyones pants down, and I for one just don't trust them anymore.

    2. The failings of NAPO are the failings in its membership. Much as I mourn the potential loss of my right to strike in principle, I will not miss watching members of my OWN UNION crossing a picket line.

    3. 1358 great post but do tell shenanigans ???

    4. NAPO is the union of Probation workers, it is an established organisation and has respect and some renown - unfortunately the recent And previous G.S have been weak. Surely if we remove the weakness as a matter of urgency we can rebuild confidence, unity and public respect. Our union can reinstate its credibility by employing a professional General Secretary to represent its members on the issues relevant to the majority, not the select few at the TopTable. Enough already, how do we take this forward

    5. First step is to disassociate itself from the PI.

    6. Probation Officer29 May 2015 at 01:16

      Napo should learn the lessons from Labour in that allowing the wrong leader to remain at the helm can damage an organisation beyond repair and members WILL go elsewhere. I suspect that Napo feels it got away with the shenanigans around the previous GS and expects to get away with it this time too.

      As far as I'm aware there has been no call for the GS to step down YET. This should have happened when the TR battle was lost. Even better, the GS should have handed in his badge and let somebody else have a go who may have taken Napo in a better direction. If he stood down now he could even have the claim to fame of resing in the same month as the Labour leader (and probably the FIFA president too).

      In summary, Napo has little credibility at present and this is worsened by the GS remaining in post after losing against TR, the failure of JR and all the promises and 'sabre waving' that has amounted to nothing. I agree with poster(s) above, it makes little difference whether the AGM is 2 days or 3. The AGM is pointless since probation has been sold and Napo were not even in the stadium when the battle too place, let alone in the ring.

      Anything of purpose Napo want to say/debate can be put in an email. The first point should be an apology to members, the second that the GS has stepped down, and the third that it has severed it's relationship with that Tory Trojan Horse aka the Probation Institute. Maybe fourthly cut the extortionate membership fee as it's not like we're getting value for money. Erm ... fifth and sixth, put 'probation' back into the name and heart of this Union and also realise that a specialist probation Union should be led by a person with the right level of 'union skills' and ideally someone with experience as a probation officer.

    7. Good post PO except the last line. I think NAPO needs a professional trade union leader who has a full understanding of the needs and vocational drivers that underpin what Probation was about not so far back.

      It has been POs who have all been chairs of NAPO and none of them in the past 6 years, while things have got more complex have been any use.

      The disaster that befell NAPO in the Ledgergate scandal was led by the PO chair. No insight to the outcome or risks to NAPO yet they ran on despite being warned I understand .

      The subsequent PO chairs have all been more disaster in one way or another. They are just not up to the role.

      The General secretary was able to hover around and then got elected on a low turn out.

      Better external candidates may well have served NAPO better yet the way the selection process is currently arranged and managed the outcomes appear to favour the internal incumbents who have enough friends. In my opinion the wrong ones seem to get chosen .

      In relation to change of leadership it makes little difference now the GS is a spent force hanging on for a large salary having lost everything he led on If he goes honourabley as you suggest in your wish list lets hope the membership Bring in NEW people and the current internal assistant general secretary does not just expect to hop up and take over the warm cosy slippers of the current ! I think the GS will just carry on fronting up the twisted spin as no one in NAPO has what it takes and he will c collect another 250k before term ends and for what ?

    8. Probation Officer29 May 2015 at 13:39

      Yes you're right. A professional trade unionist is required as leader. I suspect that unless the current GS is forced out now then the next GS will have no reason to be any different. The message Napo would be wise to change the pattern of recent years that the GS and exec earn big bucks for doing next to nothing. If Napo was running on PbR it'd be bankrupt already.