Sunday, 18 October 2015

Eastbourne Reflections

Quoracy was always going to be an issue this year, and so it proved. A perfect storm has been brewing over the last twelve months with so many experienced officers deciding they've had enough; Sodexo begining the cull within CRCs; NPS staff feeling exposed and vulnerable; growing disillusionment with Napo leadership; low morale generally and finally withdrawal of facility time for attendance. Put like this, a case could be made for saying it was remarkable just how many members decided to turn up.

From what was said during the tetchy closing session on Saturday morning, it would appear that certain mightily disgruntled and influential people are going to try and question whether the AGM was ever quorate on the Friday afternoon. I'm pretty sure I heard an unphased Chris Pearson say from the Chair that any challenge should have been made at the time, but sadly I think this is just likely to inflame the obviously difficult relationship between London Branch and the top table.

I think it's clear that the redoubtable Pat Waterman, Chair of London Branch, arrived at Eastbourne an angry person and harbouring unresolved feelings arising from her unsuccessful application to become a National Rep. That whole business is a somewhat difficult can of worms in itself, the suspicion being that certain hidden agendas were being played out, but in the absence of transparency and openness, members are often left to try and make sense of things as best they can through rumour and social media. Coupled to this of course is the ever-present matter of the individual egos of those involved.

It should be obvious to everyone that holds the union dear that it's in none of our interests to be in a state of inquoracy, or indeed to muddy the water further by attempting to pursue a challenge after the event. To put it bluntly, it suited Pat Waterman to hear that quoracy had been achieved on Friday afternoon when she mounted her challenge to a particular section of the Annual Report. A ballot was held and the challenge was endorsed, thus reversing a decision of the NEC to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

It's my understanding that the issue has been discussed twice at previous AGMs resulting in defeats for affiliation each time. However, it appears that the NEC is able to make such decisions in between AGMs if properly approached and supported, leaving subsequent endorsement to be achieved if the Annual Report is adopted at the AGM. There's clearly a couple of lessons to be learnt here, not least the necessity to read the Annual Report carefully before being tempted to just vote it through nem con. 

It would appear that those who were keen to ensure that Napo remained affiliated to the Palestinian cause were anxious that it be debated fully at the AGM, hence the relevant motions, and indeed so was Pat Waterman, but circumstances ultimately conspired to ensure this aim was thwarted when a ballot recount was announced the following day. So, not only has the matter not been debated fully, but Napo remains affiliated to the PSC and the Annual Report unadopted until the next AGM in 2016.     

Of course, to say the least, it was embarrassing to hear that the rushed count had gone awry and in fact the challenge to part of the Annual Report had been heavily defeated, but these things can and do happen. But to be honest it's still unedifying to see the Chair of what is the largest Napo branch so publicly take her bat home, leading some of her members out of the hall, having also been defeated in her attempt to stop discussion of any motions during inquoracy. 

Despite being inquorate by the order of 60, the over-whelming view of the meeting was to continue with business by discussing motions, even if they would only be indicative and at best referred back to the next NEC. I have to say I find it disappointing and some-what mean-spirited not to have respected this view, but I suspect it's just another example of a long-running and sour power struggle between the largest Napo branch and the top table. 

To say all this is unfortunate would be a considerable understatement and leaves me with an over-whelming urge to bang heads together, but in all probability this feud will continue to cause unnecessary deflection from rather more important matters such as trying to save what's left of our profession. All that stuff about the need for unity from the two POA speakers went clearly unheeded.

The cynics would say that only Napo could fail to see the supreme irony of getting to discuss a motion entitled 'The Future of Napo' at 12.50pm on the final day and only then because London Branch had gone home early leaving nobody to propose their motion. Actually the cynical would have a field day in noting that the proposer of the final motion admitted not having prepared a speech at all and it subsequently proved to be the only motion not to be passed 'nem con' for referral to the NEC! 

Still, at least the meeting decided to authorise the NEC to challenge Sodexo's barmy idea of moving all their CRC staff and clients into shared open-plan offices with just waist-high partitions intended to provide adequate privacy. It's yet another indication of how little these 'cooks' understand our business and the risks involved. 

Finally, it was good to hear a very supportive Lord Falconer confirming what we all know regarding our shabby treatment at the hands of the Tory government, together with the constant changes we've had to endure over the last 30 or so years. He will prove to be a good friend and a powerful, authoritative voice in our defence and not surprisingly gained a well-deserved standing ovation.                          

47 comments:

  1. I now fully support the top table. All this moaning and huffing and puffing on here came to nothing. Top table handled business. Everything was resolved in Eastbourne. Let's focus on the task ahead and get behind the top table. Good job top brass

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    1. Yes a very well-argued and perceptive observation. You were either not present or have difficulty following what's going on.

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  2. Well the GS is still in post. London didn't deliver. All of NAPOs alleged failings on this blog were not exposed. All thks talk of breakaway unions is nonsense. Let's get behind the top table. I trust they know what there doing. That's all!!

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    1. Maybe you can enlighten us as to what London was going to try and deliver? What talk of a breakaway union? I would suggest the failure to hold the top table to account was clearly visible to those willing to see.

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  3. A fair and balanced account of the AGM. Napo does need a strategic review and the Future of Napo motion was on the right track, but it was undermined at the outset by the failure of the proposer to prepare and fully explain his proposal. It was not about giving Napo away but the motion opposer was able to tap into this romantic nerve and so the motion imploded.

    The call for unity is hollow when Merseyside boycott and the London Chair stomps out. There is a different unity operating in Merseyside and it says something important about divides when a significant branch rallies around and refuses to attend. Could Merseyside breakaway?

    As for London that disunity was not in the AGM but in the Middle East. Napo along with 80% of trade unions is now affiliated to the PSC, but some people are either bad losers or self-righteously locked into a lachrymose version of Jewish history.

    The POA advocated unity as did the TUC speaker, as do all speakers, as unity is the sin qua non of effective union action. Yet over the TR struggle it seems that the two unions who should have been unified were out of step with each other. Unison signed the Framework Agreement and went quiet whilst Napo signed up for the split and then said we don't agree with the split. Napo and Unison were in the same workplaces yet disengaged in terms of strategy towards TR.

    Plan A is 'Re-engagement'. It will be a uphill struggle and it may be too late. It was the most sparsely attended AGM I can recall. Any re-engagement has surely got to be jointly and whole-heartedly promoted by both unions. All the membership have witnessed in the past couple of years if defeat after defeat and changes being imposed by high-handed and confident management. In the face of this it is no wonder that members increasing see the unions as ineffective in protecting conditions of service. Apart from the insurance policy of union representation in disciplinaries and grievances, members see a weak union in terms of collective bargaining and thus why become an activist if it's not going to make any difference. It would help to build confidence at the grassroots perhaps if Napo and Unison were seen to be joined at the hip at the top. The unions desperately need a victory – somewhere, somehow.

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    1. Well written and totally accurate in content. It's going to take a big big shake up to get membership back supporting and many did not go to AGM I protest of the weak leadership - time for change.

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  4. "Napo remains affiliated to the PSC"

    Another organisation which considers its members must follow the flag of anti Israel declaration as indication of its socialist credetials

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    1. With respect, I don't intend to get us side-tracked down this particular avenue on here. I would also remind readers that Napo is not affiliated to any party political organisation and is a professional association in addition to being a trade union.

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    2. I fully agree that sorting out the middle east is important (and certainly emotive or very valid reasons) but it should not be a priority for Napo HQ, branches, or this blog particularly when there are such important issues within probation such as the Sodexo crisis and other matters impacting on probation staff that should rightly be the focus of our attention. If people feel strongly about something for humanitarian reasons not directly linked to probation then my personal opinion is that they should take out their own membership, campaign in their own time,and not use the Napo as a vehicle. Again speaking personally I would like Napo to limit their affiliations to trade union or criminal justice organisations with a strong preference for those that concentrate on our criminal justice system in the way The Howard League does. I have promised myself to remind them of this view and my own branch executive of this view whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

      I was surprised to find out quite recently that Napo is apparently not a member of/affiliated to the Confederation of European Probation (someone correct me if I am wrong). This seems to me a no-brainer as Napo is conspicuous by its absence at their events that involve discussing probation professional standards and ethics to be applied across Europe (NOMS and MoJ have demonstrated that despite attending they have had relatively little to contribute). When I have attended events in my own time but nevertheless flown the flag for Napo and UK probation I have been inundated by our probation colleagues in Europe concerned about what has been happening and keen to offer help. This rich vein of support remains relatively untapped.
      Napo remains one of the largest unions and professional associations representing probation staff in Europe and I think Napo owes it to its membership to take centre stage when this is relevant to pan European probation professional standards. Who knows perhaps they will start to do so http://cep-probation.org/

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    3. David, there is a constant refrain, in response to all things Palestinian, of not involving ourselves with "outside issues". And yet there is a long and honourable tradition of trade unions doing exactly that, from anti-apartheid to CND, to specific injustices at home and abroad. As was powerfully noted at AGM, to chose neutrality is to side with the oppressor.

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    4. "to chose neutrality is to side with the oppressor" - well said and spot on.

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    5. I agree and I noted how the support to the Miami 5 was appreciated by the Cuban representative at the AGM.

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    6. I am well aware of the dangers of organisations becoming too inward looking but there is equally a danger of organisations becoming so preoccupied with external matters that they forget themselves and are diverted from the task they should be performing. I believe that at this time Napo needs to focus its energies, without distraction, on the important task of preserving the jobs of their members and the professional integrity of its members - this makes sense to me. We need to take care of business first and then do other stuff. It does not mean abandoning long and honorable traditions but it does mean scaling back for the time being on other matters (no matter how strongly we feel about them). Anyone who encourages us to do otherwise at the moment probably doesn't realise what we're up against and what is at stake or if they do then this is poor strategy and ineffective use of time and energy. With respect to the misquote from Bishop Tutu this is hardly choosing neutrality but rather picking the battles to fight injustice closer to home that are currently ours. In the scale of things they may not be that fashionable or momentous but they are our battles and if we don't fight them no ones going to fight them for us. It's our choice.

      'If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

      'If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor' Bishop Tutu

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    7. I do realise what we're up against. I also realise picking our battles includes global issues that affect us all, eg the Fracking and TTIP motions.I also believe that if you are so concerned with issues closer to home, you might have stayed on to move the drug testing motion.

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    8. The drug testing motion was fairly uncontentious one and I am guessing may well have received a positive indicative vote. I'm sorry that this was not proposed before a quorate meeting as the proposer worked hard on it to make clear the issues.

      It asked the H&S Committee to prepare a model risk assessment and for the officer group to look at grounds for job evaluation. I would hope they would do that in any case.

      It will go through our branch meeting and if passed will go to the next NEC in a similar way to the PSC motion did. Hopefully it will not be lost.

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    9. Hi David
      NAPO was actually a founder member in 1981 of the Confederation of European Probation (CEP). There was a tri-partite approach to membership and attendance. This involved The Home Office; The Central Council of Probation Boards and Chief Officers, and NAPO. When it started It held biennial conferences and also helped fund many other workshops. It's membership was mainly made up of Government departments with responsibility for Criminal Justice and Probation - NAPO was a bit of an anomaly in being a member and the Home Office did all they could to try and stop us attending. Napo was usually represented by an Assistant General Secretary and by one of the Officers. I attended along with Harry Fletcher on behalf of NAPO when I was Co-Chair in 1994. We used that occasion to challenge and highlight the threat posed by electronic tagging which was being introduced in the UK but hadn't yet arrived in Europe. As you can imagine The Home Office were not best pleased about this but we did get a very symapthetic hearing from other colleagues across Europe. I'm not sure when NAPO last attended a CEP conference. The Home Office used to pick up the tab (through gritted teeth as they undid the padlock on their wallet). I dont know whether the MOJ would countenance funding NAPO's attendance now but it should be worth trying.
      There was also another pan-europe probation organisation - The European Assocation for Social Workers in Justice (EASWJ). This had been set up initially by a number of Probation workers from Germany France and Italy and they held annual conferences that were supported by translators/interpreters into those three languages. They were keen to get POs from the UK to get involved but couldn't afford the costs of supporting an additional language. Then in a very magnaminious gesture the Italians offered to forgo their interpreters in oder to enable the british to attend.
      Its membership was open to practitioners rather than Government Departments or organisations so this made it difficult for NAPO to affiliate in the normal way but financial support was given and the President of the EASWJ was regularly invited to NAPO AGM. Two conferences were hosted by the UK one looking at the "Racism in the Justice System" and a second looking at Domestic Violence. Both were very well attended and we shared experiences and ideas with colleagues from about 12 different european countries.
      Unfortunately national politics and politicians put paid to the association as the French Government pulled their financial support when they learnt that the Home Office were not prepared to give any similar financial support.
      This was one of the best associations that I ever worked with. It would be great if NAPO got involved with other european colleagues again.

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    10. Hi John
      Many thanks for this information. I really think there is something missing from Napo in terms of solid affiliations with probation organisations across Europe and that we should aim to build these bridges again before we look further afield. Whenever I have had contact with those involved in CEP from the UK I feel we are missing out and that their concerns mirror ours and that we would be mutually much stronger if we were to forge stronger links.

      One development I am proud of is that the Probation Journal is now bundled with the European Journal of Probation giving it a much wider circulation. This in turn has done much to inform others internationally of issues in the UK probation services.

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  5. Pat Waterman needs to calm down, less of the aggression! Not good for unity or recruiting new members if that's how probation staff are going to behave.

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    1. Yes he should, well said!

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  6. I'm just amazed Jim brown et al. have had no issue highlighting the union failures and poor leadership behind a computer screen for so long now. However they said nothing at conference when it mattered. I have to say this was cowardly and was noted by many. It's probably why non of you are leaders. At least waterman said something whilst most of you sat behind your computer screens typing away. Ho on slate me on here but it's the truth.

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    1. I haven't finished with my thoughts from Eastbourne - more to come tomorrow.

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    2. Pat Waterman appears to be being slated on here for standing up for what she believes in. She is entitled. Perhaps some of the armchair critics who are getting a little animated criticising events they heard about secondhand need to think carefully who they scapegoat. Pat Waterman is not the enemy. London branch is not the villain of the peace.

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    3. You mean piece. Reads like she is..

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  7. The squabbling & poor outcomes of the AGM are painful to read when numerous seasoned probation staff across all roles have paid the price of privatisation, either by walking or being cornered & squeezd out by the threats & immoral, unpalatable practices of the CRCs. Was there any recognition of such a loss at AGM? I'm one such ex-member of staff. No-one from Napo has contacted me since I left so presumably the CRC are still paying my subs for me?

    Whilst there are many global issues which merit attention, isn't the existence & welfare of a membership the primary focus of Napo? Anon@17:53 reflects a valid observation & sentiment... one I believe can be attributed to Napo when 'shafting' took place & contracts were being negotiated.

    So, Mr Lawrence, please note that my lack of confidence in you as GS has never been influenced by your BME status, nor do I know of anyone who has cited such as a reason to be angry with your performance as GS. I, and others, think you & Unison got it badly wrong. But as the primary probation union leader involved in those negotiations YOU must carry the can for choosing neutrality at a critical point & thus you are complicit in selling members & other probation staff down the river without EVR.

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    1. Postscript to 18:31 - my views as expressed above, i.e. No Confidence in the GS, have always been made known to Napo directly. And as an ex-member of probation staff I don't have the resources to throw at travellng to an AGM some two hundred plus miles away.

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    2. 1838....of course the CRC won't still be paying your NAPO subs if you are no longer one of their employees.......you could contact NAPO yourself & become a retired or professional member depending on your circumstances......I left in March and am now a retired member......Bobbyjoe

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    3. 18.38 - excellent post. I to am a Probation Officer of 25 years standing in London and will not be renewing my membership of NAPO in Jan. My subs will be better spent on something useful like contrbuting towards my pension. The self obsessed navel gazing is pathetic. This union has lost its purpose. All its energy should be focussed on the interests of its members. Pathetic debates on the Middle East are pointless and insulting to people like me who pay subs to be represented properly. Some egotistical individuals really need to consider that frankly people like me dont give a shit what their view is on the Middle East and frankly see any such discussion as a waste of time and energy!

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  8. As a member of London Branch, I need to correct the record on a couple of points;
    Please don`t conflate London Branch with the actions or individual views of its Chair - in particular, we are certainly not party to a power struggle with Napo HQ, or anything like it. On the contrary, as many speakers pointed out, we too see the critical need for Unity at this vital time for our future.
    Secondly, it`s not accurate to say London Branch left AGM early. The Chair appeared to lead a few members of the Exec out of Conference over an hour early with debates going on, but I can assure you there was zero consultation or approval from ordinary Branch members in the Hall who were continuing to engage with Conference as had been decided.
    We were incredulous and dismayed to note that our important and urgent motion on Drug Testing was not proposed when called, as presumably the small Exec group who left included our proposer and seconder, and no contingency plan was put in place by the Chair to propose the Branch Motion in their absence.

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  9. I am not a London branch member and was unable to attend AGM but was really hoping for support for the Drug Testing motion.I really wish this had been dealt with, I am very very concerned that no thought has been given by our employer to the health and safety issues eg are staff protected by hep inoculations? I look to my union for such issues and wonder if anyone at Chivalry Road is even aware of this? How on earth did this slip through the net? I and all OMs have been instructed to carry out the tests.

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  10. Just do them and be careful. We've always done drug testing?

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  11. No most OMs have not...the scope has been massively extended under ORA without any thought about H and S....I did not even know I was being made to do this until 2 weeks ago.

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  12. Bad one. What you manager say. Just refuse to do it?

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    1. Lots of info on drug testing here for CRC and NPs but no mention of Staff H&S!
      https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/444764/Guide_to_Drug_Testing_and_Drug_Appointment_Licence_and_Post_Sentence_Supervision_requirements_July_2015.pdf

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  13. Although primarily not quorate Conference was still motivating and I certainly came away with a renewed energy to try and unite and re-engage members. It is concerning that every year Conference is at risk of turning into the Pat Waterman show and when we voted on whether to continue to discuss motions to gain an indicative view on whether to take those Motions to NEC I was disgusted that PW led some of her members out. If the vote had gone her way not to debate any Motions we would have respected the result and all left early. Surely we go with the majority view? People had prepared Motions and speeches and it was disrespectful not to stay and listen. The top table weren't perfect but it felt like our concerns were heard and responded to. Roll on Cardiff.

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    1. You have a right to be disgusted. Equally PW has a right to walk out!!!.

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    2. There will be even fewer NAPO members next year once the hundreds don't set up direct debits for subs......I predict Cardiff, if it happens, is also likely to be largely inquorate........what will the NAPO hierarchy do about these huge structural changes - precisely nothing..........Nero fiddling &/or re-arranging deckchairs comes to mind yet again.....Bobbyjoe

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  14. YOU GIVE PAT RESPECT. She is NAPO

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    1. Wrong ! We are napo not individuals. There is a problem as some in London fail to grasp collective as the democracy rule and respect the wider view.

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    2. As a longstanding member of London branch my view is Pat Waterman is a good campaigner but she is too strident and divisive to be a leader. She gets all stroppy if things dont go her way. Its the age old problem people get carried away with their own self importance and fail to see the bigger picture. People are losing their jobs thwt and how to address it takes priority over everything else. Its no hard is it!

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    3. Pat Waterman is not napo or London branch as she has worked hard to build a branch that will hopefully continue to be a strong well functioning branch that had no trouble bringing a large group to conference despite other branches now being a similar sise. All the infighting needs to stop. As far as I can recollect Pat has one more year in office having then served two terms and may not then even be chair of London at the next AGM. We need to stop moaning and make sure napo does what we want it to for us to save our jobs. If Napo implodes we are all fragged.

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  15. Completely agree Anon 21:40 - in a union it should always be we, us and our union and members not I, me and my members.
    Anon 21:58 - there won't be fewer members at Cardiff if every one of us works hard to unite our union this year.

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    1. Will there be anyone left to unite?

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  16. As someone who retired from probation some while ago am much amused by the veneration with which pat waterman is he'd in some quarters. Those of us who worked with her in southwark probation recall a person very much in touch with her own feelings but out of touch with everyone else's. Passionate she may well be but she treated we admin like shit - no time to waste her socialist breath with a please or a thank you . Rude, arrogant and treated us like a landlord with the peasantry. I remember the day we learned she was leaving southwark - we all cheered.

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    1. Perhaps you cheered in the way you describe with those thoughts but most of us who were Napo members at Southwark were glad that her talents would be used to fight for us. There were also those in Southwark who supported TR and complained about Napo's campaign. In my experience Pat fights fire with fire but she can be a bit short in her frustration on occasions - and is well aware of her faults. You seem to be reveling in the negative comments and criticisms being made anonymously and that's a bit of a sad way to enjoy your retirement. It's called trolling and we shouldn't encourage it.

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    2. Hilarious. An anonymous commenter condemns someone else for posting anonymously. "Sad" I don't think so . Pat was untouchable in Southwark when she worked as a PO, managment were terrified. She was passed around amongst the admin as no one could bare to work with her for more than a short while, usually ended up with a temp. One of these, from South Africa, remarked on Pat's lack of er.. social skills.. "Jeez, this is what it was like under apartheid!"

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  17. From The Morning Star: -

    "
    FALCONER: ‘NATIONALISE PROBATION’

    Oct 2015 Monday 19th

    Lord Falconer tells delegates it’s been treated like a football


    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-08fd-FALCONER-NATIONALISE-PROBATION#.ViQxVm6Yq4o "

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    1. LABOUR shadow Lord Chancellor called for probation to be renationalised yesterday, damning Tory privatisations as "absolutely scandalous" - and he also apologised for Labour's own failings.

      Addressing probation officers at the annual general meeting of probation workers union Napo, Lord Falconer said he was "appalled by the arrogance of a government signing 10-year contracts... in order to tie the hands of any future government."
      And he slammed ex-justice secretary Chris Grayling, saying: “A measure of how bad he was is that all of Michael Gove’s successes have involved overturning Grayling’s policies. “Our justice system is crumbling and it’s about time we restored decent provision.”

      Lord Falconer, a Blair loyalist who was reappointed to the shadow cabinet this summer after eight years on the back benches, also admitted his party had treated the service like “a football.” And in an exclusive interview with the Morning Star, the senior peer says he is on board with Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to scrap employment tribunal fees.

      The probation service was split by the previous coalition government in June last year, with all but the most serious cases farmed out to regional contractors, including outsourcing giant Sodexo. In a Q&A session, East Midlands delegate Steve Bradley called for a “separate directorate for probation,” blasting New Labour for creating the mammoth National Offender Management Service (Noms), which also oversees prisons.
      Lord Falconer defended the “principle to integrate” but slammed the “perpetual changing” of probation “since 1998/99.”

      Four Shires delegate Gordon Jackson said New Labour reforms had paved the way for the Tory fragmentation of the service, and called for Lord Falconer to apologise. The Labour spokesman, who previously served as Lord Chancellor but was not responsible for probation, conceded that “making probation a football in the way it has become was a very bad thing.”

      “I do apologise for changes that were no more than practical changes,” he said. Asked if he would commit to bringing the entire probation service back into public control, he said: “Probably the way this has to be done is to indicate that we won’t renew contracts. “My position is that we should get out of the contracts as quickly as we financially and legally can.”

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