Monday, 11 January 2016

A Possible Way Forward

Our good friend Joe Kuipers has duly delivered on his recent promise to come up with some sensible suggestions that, if followed, could get Gove off the hook and halt the terminal omnishambles that probation is rapidly descending into. This is an extremely important contribution to a vital debate and is republished in full with the author's encouragement:-     

Probation Re-unification.
Towards a better rehabilitation future.

It has been just under a year since I posted a blog. In that time I have followed the predictable TR shortcomings with dismay. Now we are in the expected period of slash and burn as CRC owners realise that there is not a pot of gold to be had. In the past I have put forward options for the future when constructive suggestions were thin on the ground. They remain so. Not congenitally a pessimist I am having another go.

But, why should we be pessimistic about probation re-unification?

  • We have a government that is wholly pre-occupied with money and a foolish belief in the market as the solution to every challenge. It is a government with little concept of values and principles, believing that privateers can and will balance the need to make profits with altruism and fair play;
  • There is no money for new changes;
  • Mr Gove has appointed Govites into the key justice inspectorates, raising questions about the politicisation of HMI Probation in particular;
  • Prisons trump probation and the leadership of NOMS is effectively the prison service who, despite claims to the contrary, just do not get probation;
  • CRC owners have not as yet completed the MoJ’s and NOMS’s dirty work of staff culling;
  • Sentencers do not seem to care too much;
  • NAPO appears on the perpetual back foot;
  • The PI wants to be friends with everyone;
  • Probation has been airbrushed out of the picture;
  • Unified data is now lacking and national standards have been eroded;
  • Commercial confidentiality rules;
  • NPS and CRC leader tweets have yet to say anything about outcomes and results, but say plenty about meetings attended.
Wow, quite a list which is no doubt far from complete. So, is there any room for optimism? Yes.
  • TR is not working for all the reasons that were predicted at the outset;
  • TR will not work, for all the reasons that were predicted at the outset;
  • CRC audits point to developing failures;
  • HMI Probation reports struggle to be positive;
  • The MoJ has recently announced that ‘in house modernisation’ was the better way to go when rejecting other privatisation plans;
  • Mr Gove needs coherent, consistent, reliable and trusted community provision if he is to translate fine justice words into action;
  • PbR is not likely ever to be the right approach to improve the delivery of complex social interventions, inevitably leading to malversation;
  • Communication problems are highlighted by the need for hugely complex guidance about case transfers between YOTs and probation. YOTs are not happy with the current arrangements;
  • CRC owners will want to get out of costly contracts that fail to deliver profits and create headaches for shareholders;
  • The dead weight of the previous probation boards and the PA has been swept away;
  • At some point, probably driven by SFOs, sentence complaints, reoffending and costs data, accountability weaknesses and NOMS failures to manage the system the penny will drop that a unified probation / community provision supported by the private and third sectors is necessary; and,
  • Without hope and optimism where are we?
I am not about to advocate a return to where we were pre TR, but will propose a simple mechanism to restore some order to a failing system, failures that impact on victims and communities and deliver a disservice. I do not intend to replay the history and my critique of TR, already set out in my detailed and extensive blogs posted from 2012 up to January 2015.

You can find all my blogs at

Supporting a sense of optimism are a couple of other recent publications.

Firstly, Julian Le Vay published “Competition for Prisons – Public or private?” in December 2015. He devoted a section to probation TR, essentially pointing out how not to do it (but as an advocate of privatisation). He highlights the flimsy basis for TR and repeats all the arguments raised at the time for not progressing with TR in the terms demanded by Grayling, blindly and unthinkingly followed by his NOMS prison-centric officials with a seeming degree of relish. Before setting out Le Vay’s comments about TR a reminder of what Michael Spurr wrote to all probation staff on 9 September 2013:

"I know staff will understandably have questions and concerns as we enter a period of significant change – but I also know they share a common goal to reduce reoffending. If we implement these reforms well (and I am determined that we will do so) we will continue to deliver our responsibility to protect the public and drive a long term change in levels of reoffending. That is a prize we all want – and one that working together we can achieve.

We need to take staff with us and there are some key messages which they need to hear to help them through the uncertainty of what is undoubtedly a complex change process. I have attempted to set some of these out in the attached briefing pack but in essence I think it’s really important for colleagues that:

  • The driving force and objective of the reform programme is to reduce reoffending. It is not about short term financial savings but about achieving a step-change in reoffending.
  • The Probation Budget is being protected, relative to other areas, broadly maintained at around £800m. This is necessary in order to extend services to the under 12 month group.
  • Restructuring how Probation delivers its work is necessary in order to deliver the extension to the under 12 month group and achieve the payment by results outcome focus to drive innovation and change.
  • These reforms will open up delivery of probation services to a wide range of potential providers. We are clear that we are keen to see partnerships between VCS and private organisations coming forward and drawing upon the expertise that exists amongst current probation staff.
  • New structures will be introduced by April 2014. The process to move staff to the new structures is covered by the Cabinet Office Statement of Practice (COSOP) arrangements. This provides protections for staff on transfer.
  • NOMS will take direct responsibility for the new National Probation Service and for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies from April 2014, and we have been working hard with Programme colleagues and with Trades Unions to ensure that processes for transfer are fair and that staff are properly protected and looked after.
We are committed to working closely and positively with Trades Unions and with staff to ensure a smooth transition to the new delivery arrangements when the 21 CRCs move to new providers in the autumn 2014.

As you know Trusts will be wound up by April and for that reason the work to begin the transition must begin now. The progress we have made with Trades Unions to develop a national framework for transfers has been positive, and I am confident that the package on which you will consult with staff for 19th September will be the best deal we can offer – with proper protection in place for pensions, voluntary exit packages etc. NOMS is a good, responsible employer and, as CEO, I am absolutely committed to ensuring that staff are treated properly, fairly and consistently throughout the process.

Although there is uncertainty at present there will be plenty of new opportunities for staff once we move to the new arrangements in April, both in terms of professional/career development and in terms of developing innovative new ways of working. Both the NPS and the CRCs are vital if we are to deliver our objectives and there will be genuinely new and exciting opportunities for colleagues in both sectors going forward."


Julian Le Vay, with whom I worked when the plans for increasing private and third sector involvement in probation delivery were being considered (and I have no problem with private and third sector inclusion in probation delivery but as part of a supply chain managed by public sector probation) makes the following points:

  • long term 'invest to save' promises in complex systems are always problematic. The MoJ refused to give estimates for costs and saving for this major government change programme. The leaked risk register for the programme gives an 80% risk that expected savings will not be achieved;
  • if the probation service was too prescriptive why did Government not reduce the controls?
  • if the public sector was not good enough at probation delivery why give it the very highest risk cases?
  • the organisational and delivery models were untried, untested, over-complex and highly risky. Communication confusions, over- and under-laps, and additional structural hurdles were entirely predictable in a Criminal Justice System not known for effective information flows across institutional boundaries;
  • a recent cross-governmental study of PbR schemes concluded that the rationale of using PbR schemes was often lacking & with TR carried financial risks that were not always properly understood (NAO 2015);
  • the MoJ capacity to manage changes to achieve the new systems was and remains questionable (being very kind). The MoJ had just emerged from an excruciatingly critical audit of its contract management functions and was described as unable to cope adequately with its existing responsibilities. Yet it was expected to take on huge new and far more sophisticated contracts – not credible;
  • the decision not to mandate qualifications & training, but to leave it to each CRC to decide on skills required & training levels risked competence & professional standards;
  • it was, and remains unclear how government would deal with supplier failure either of performance or outright financial failure or withdrawal other than by rapid market consolidation. Contingency plans were not clear to the Justice Select Committee;
  • the approach to risk was foolhardy with many involved in the programme commenting on the way it was simply asserted that issues would be fixed and managed. Difficulties were wished away. The TR programme was the only one examined by the Major Projects Authority where no information whatsoever was given due to commercial confidentiality;
  • Le Vay concluded that he TR changes lack any compelling rationale or evidence, were uncosted, required extremely rapid implementation of new, highly complex organisational & relational models for all participants simultaneously, used payment mechanisms that were entirely untested & carried major risks of unforeseen consequences, relied on new & untested suppliers, required high levels of competence in contracting & contract management that the MoJ had recently been shown to lack and were being implemented at break neck speed for no reason - and there seemed to be no recovery plan if TR went badly wrong. He states that “it is like watching people doing their best to organise the perfect train crash”. And, this is a book praised by Martin Narey and Phil Wheatley.
Secondly, Sue Higgins of the NAO posted a blog on January 5 on the Art of Spending Public Money Wisely. She highlighted four broad issues that impede public service improvement and lead to poor services for citizens. The following are quotes from her blog:

“Often with the best will, government has a tendency to overlook conflicting priorities, ignore inconvenient facts, allow what’s out of sight to be out of mind, and just not learn from mistakes.”

“Big promises can result in unrealistic timeframes, simultaneous changes placing conflicting demands on resources, and rushed planning undermining sustainability.”

“Where organisations take time to acknowledge the challenges, benefits have been realised. Portfolios of change programmes can be managed; planning and capacity-management can avoid expensive mistakes.”

“”The elephant in the room” tends to be the optimism bias, the unrealistic assumption that is treated as the “likely result”, leading to under-delivery of benefits and over-run in time and money.”

“Although assumptions are unavoidable, results can be improved considerably by understanding the limitations of assumptions, considering the consequences of variation in their accuracy, monitoring their achievement, recognising and addressing risks, and tackling complications head on.”

“Localism can have great benefits. But devolving responsibility puts public service delivery beyond the day-to-day consideration of central government, which may then make funding and policy decisions without consideration of the local consequences. Accountability chains become long and complex, often meaning reduced accountability for public spending and a lack of understanding of how users are affected. As our recent reports on financial and service sustainability have shown, there needs to be better lines of accountability, a long-term view, consideration of knock-on effects, performance and cost data, evaluation and response, and sharing best practice across sectors.”

Ms Higgins also questions by implication that government is not much good at learning from mistakes. In the TR context the MoJ and NOMS managed to make every mistake. We have to hope that they can and will learn.

What do we want probation to achieve?

  • Simple and pretty obvious really, and not controversial?
  • fewer victims;
  • less crime;
  • less reoffending;
  • fewer serious further offences by those being supervised (improved public protection);
  • ex offenders as better citizens better equipped to make their contributions to their communities;
  • demonstrable value-for-money outcomes.
Business requirements and principles. 

Again, not complicated:
  1. a holistic, coherent and consistent system of offender management (that is the assessment, sentence planning, risk review, court and parole board advice, etc) that enables the offender, service and partners to be clear as to who is responsible and accountable for what. The fundamental flaw with TR is the disaggregation of offender management, leading to complex communication arrangements (between CRCs and the NPS, with YOTs, courts, etc), multiple providers working inconsistently, unclear lines of accountability and responsibility; and now loss of transparency as CRC providers hide behind commercial confidentialities;
  2. differentiated, efficient and effective offender interventions that take account of the needs and profiles of different offender groups (e.g. women) and ages, paying proper regard to equalities and applying the principles and practices of restorative justice, desistance theory and 'what works';
  3. service delivery organised around the existing Local Delivery Unit structures;
  4. a cohesive, intelligent and well-trained workforce with staff equipped to understand and influence (change) human behaviour in a complex social environment and able to communicate effectively;
  5. sufficient middle managers to support and guide service delivery staff, and similarly for corporate and support services;
  6. a cost-effective and lean senior management structure, and corporate services working to this senior management structure;
  7. IT that works;
  8. simple governance arrangements to separate service delivery responsibilities from policy making to avoid any conflicts of interest or undue influence in the delivery systems and that enable financial and business transparency fully open to public scrutiny;
  9. understanding that the probation service is a community based operation with the key strategic and operational community partners being the courts, the parole board, the police, local authorities other community providers supported by an 'offender management relationship' with the prisons;
  10. adherence to the 7 principles of public life. 
So, what’s the plan?

Julian Le Vay argued that there was no recovery plan should ‘thinks go wrong’. Well, there is, and it is quite simple. First and foremost bring the offender management function back under 'one roof' and retain it fully within the public sector to avoid the real dangers that further fragmentations are certain to create. All that is required is to bring CRC staff into the NPS, a small step. In tandem with this fundamental and totally necessary part reversal develop the structural TR changes to advantage. We now have 7 NPS divisions (Wales, London + 5) and 21 CRCs, the NPS divisions with a deputy director (to the NPS national director and his team) and 21 CRC spread amongst a small supplier base with developing structures. This still makes for too many senior managers for a fairly small business. Keeping with the LDU structure I advocate perhaps up to 9 Offender Management divisions led by CEOs (replacing the NPS deputy directors) supported by a deputy and LDU cluster ACOs, with each OM division having its corporate services structure.

This is not the time to return to what was. As suggested above, moving to 9 offender management / probation divisions will require 9 governance arrangements, balancing the accountability to government as civil servants and addressing the inappropriateness for the government policy arm to have such a service delivery responsibility (and this applies to HM Prison service also - look how freedom of speech has been restricted and how hidden the current issues in prisons are). There must be some clear blue water between those who have policy responsibilities and the delivery executive. Something like an NDPB structure makes sense in that it enables a degree of independence. It is both improper and dangerous for policy and executive powers to be in the same hands as political interference is a serious risk (the right argument used by the judiciary). Let's face it, TR is the perfect example of the dangers of implementing unquestionably dangerous political dogma. At a front line level it is questionable whether civil servants (the NPS), bound to do the bidding of politicians, should be giving sentencing advice to the courts, without some intervening more localised governance arrangement. The concept and potentially the practice of 'sufficient independence' is compromised without such an arrangement. A new model of governance that does balance the responsibilities of staff employed as civil servants with more local accountabilities should also apply to prisons. The 9 OM Divisional CEOs would be accountable, through their boards, via the probation policy leadership to their minister.

The 'close association' between probation and prisons has been an unmitigated disaster for probation. This is exactly as predicted by Sir Graham Smith when he was alive, one of the most thoughtful probation leaders we were lucky to have. A relationship between prisons and probation is needed to enable a degree of continuity of service and supervision of released prisoners. But, this does not mean probation and prisons needing to be joined at the hip. Probation is very clearly a community based business, and its primary delivery partners are the police, health and local authorities. The changes advocated would require strong separate probation leadership, either in the MoJ or Home Office. Probation needs its own policy leadership, and own minister who would not be hijacked by prison service demands and priorities.

Supporting such changes is the debate about the degree of transparency commercial enterprises should be subject to when delivering public services. Again it is a matter of regret that parliament (to date) has decided that the freedom of information act should not apply to the business sector (as I understand it), thereby restricting transparency. All in the name of commercial confidentiality. Is this what we really want - a probation service part of which (the NPS) is effectively gagged and subject to serious risk of political interference and the other (the CRCs) hidden behind the cloak of commercial confidentiality?

There are a number of ancillary but important matters:

  • probation interventions should be included in a programme of market testing to enable those best able to deliver such services (on macro and micro levels) at the best price to do so. Fair competition must include the opportunity for the public sector to participate (as happens in HM Prison Service);
  • the delivery of differentiated services that endorse and reflect the spirit of equality duties must remain a priority;
  • consider carefully the use of EM remembering that the profiles of most offenders include either thinking or behaviour deficits that cannot be fixed by EM;
  • retaining offender managers within one overall organisation mitigates the risk of divergent practice but it must be supported by suitable training for all offender managers with a recognised portable qualification;
  • without being elitist, there must be sufficient entry requirements that ensure offender managers and other staff working in probation have the intellectual, emotional and communication capacities for the work which is demanding;
  • a proper review of the middle manager role and function to ensure a sufficiency of managerial oversight of and support for practitioner staff allowing for proper staff supervision and appraisal;
  • just get some people in who actually understand probation and data security issues to design a national probation IT system. Do not allow a fragmented IT system;
  • a question remains as to the proper departmental location of probation - I could argue it should be in the Home Office as its primary objectives are public protection and reducing crime and reoffending and its close association with the work of the police;
  • the metrics for probation should include crime reduction.
And, finally, some bigger picture strategic options around the commissioning of services and interventions:
  • The MoJ or HO retains responsibility for nationally commissioned services / interventions;
  • The MoJ or HO transfers its more local commissioning responsibilities and budgets to PCCs or to groups of PCCs (that match the potentially new OM divisions), and makes use of ‘earned autonomy clauses’ as the PCCs proved capability and capacity;
  • The MoJ seconds existing key commissioning personnel into the PCC commissioning function to build capacity and ensure and enable alignment between the PCC plans with MoJ / HO objectives and between MoJ and HO objectives;
  • The PCCs will include consultation with probation, local authorities, sentencers, victim organisations, YOTs, more local bodies and strategic partnerships in building its wider Police and Crime plan to ensure local probation / community offender management priorities are considered and are affordable;
The PCCs will performance / market test and compete intervention services with an intention to drive down costs and improve effectiveness. This will allow for market development and supply chain building.

Without doubt there will be flaws in these proposals and arguments, but I can only hope that they will at least spark some further thought and consideration. It is hard to conceive of an arrangement that is worse than that which Grayling foisted onto the public.

Joe Kuipers, 11 January 2016


  1. Lots to think about. Excellent prompt piece. Thanks JB & JK. Lets hope, should it inspire any change, that those involved in any restructure are not those who relished or profited from TR. Credibility is an essential ingredient that Grayling omitted and those who eagerly followed his recipe have no place in rebuilding probation.

  2. The contracts presumably remain problematic. Despite concerns raised about A4e, fir example, and the insistence that contracts would be tight, this from that excellent 2014 PAC hearing again:

    " Q188 Chair: So is A4e being considered? I have seen them on the list among the 30 that have got through to the next stage. It seems to me that you can give me those wonderful words, but the reality is that their past performance, which we have spent a lot of time on in this Committee, does not appear to have been taken into account, because they are too big to fail.

    Dame Ursula Brennan: Just to be fair, it is not a matter of whether they are too big to fail; it is to do with the nature of the problem. There are circumstances in which—

    Q189 Chair: Forgery and fraud?

    Dame Ursula Brennan: Sorry, just to come back to it—there have been circumstances in which there has been wrongdoing at a comparatively low level in a company or in a particular division within a company. The group that now exists within the Cabinet Office looks at that and says, “Is this something which was confined to particularly junior staff, or to a particular part of a company, or is it something that was a pervading problem? We take advice from the Cabinet Office on that issue.

    Your second point was about whether these companies were too big to fail and we were too dependent on them. That is the reason, right from the very start, we looked at the market and said that we want to have a diverse market. A lot of effort was put into identifying people who had not operated in this area before or who had done related things to make sure that we have a more diverse market of providers bidding. We believe that we do have a much more diverse market."

    A4e, as I understand it, were welcomed into the TR fray regardless of morphing & name-changing & wriggling about over fraud, forgery & bullying allegations and the words of the now retired Dame.

    And I don't believe the PAC were ever supplied with the promised guidelines about contract control and/or termination. It remained this flimsy "commercially sensitive" intangible concern that was never qualified or quantified. And we're now seeing the consequences.

  3. Michael Spurr's assurances two on makes for depressing reading:

    'The progress we have made with Trades Unions to develop a national framework for transfers has been positive, and I am confident that the package...will be the best deal we can offer – with proper protection in place for pensions, voluntary exit packages etc. NOMS is a good, responsible employer and, as CEO, I am absolutely committed to ensuring that staff are treated properly, fairly and consistently throughout the process.'

    'NOMS is a good responsible employer,' he assures, and he puts his own integrity on the line with his absolute commitments. Well, it turned out that the protections for the exit packages, were of the chocolate fireguard variety and Mr Spurr was selling snake oil.

    It makes sense to 'renationalise' probation services and operate within a regional framework with a mix of private and voluntary provision under public probation service.

    How aspirational is this manifesto for change? The government is locked into 10-year contracts which presumably can only be terminated without penalty if the CRCs are proven incompetent. There is a wide consensus on what's wrong with TR, but is there really any serious prospect that the CRCs will not be around in the foreseeable future? How probable is this possible way forward?

    1. "voluntary exit packages" that is very very interesting given what actually happened with voluntary SEVERANCE.....I am really interested in Mr Spurr saying that.....

  4. From the PAC again starting with the back end of Ian Swales' Q.67:

    "... What provisions will you make for the long-term ownership of these CRCs and what do you do if one fails? This is not a service that we can have failing for any length of time.

    Antonia Romeo: In terms of provisions, we are asking bidders to set out clearly what their supply chain is going to be and we expect them not just to list the voluntary organisations with which they will be working, but to demonstrate in their bid how they will embed those providers—exactly what those providers will be doing—in their service provision. Obviously, that will need to be flexible over time, but if there are significant changes during the time of the contract, they will be required to discuss them with the MOJ, which gets rid of some of the issues that might have arisen in other contracts about people being mentioned during the bid and then perhaps having less of a role to play later on.
    In terms of supply failure, it is mentioned in the NAO Report and obviously we have a number of remedies, if you like, in place. The contracts will have a full range of remedies, up to and including termination. Our intention is that that issue will not arise because we will have to do very rigorous evaluation, which is why we have asked bidders to give us a lot of evidence in their bids on a range of things including, for example, local partnerships, to ensure that we will not be in a position where we have to deal with supply failure, but if we do have to deal with it, we have contingencies.

    Q68 Chair: What is the contingency?

    Q69 Ian Swales: Before Ms Romeo answers your question, Chair, can I put my question to her? There is the opposite failure, which is happening of course, for example with Serco and the Cornwall out-of-hours contract and the NHS. What happens if the supplier just says, “You know what? We’re not making enough out of this. Bye!” and so they go. That is a different kind of potential failure; there is failure triggered by you, but there is failure triggered by them as well.

    Antonia Romeo: All these issues are subject to negotiations with suppliers, which we are going through at the moment in the competition phase. At this point I would like to assure the Committee that we are aware of these risks and that, as you would expect, we have in place contingencies should those situations arise. We are very aware that the best way to stop them arising is by investing at the outset, in terms of getting the bids right and awarding the contracts to the right providers.
    I would probably rather not go into detail about the contingencies, if the Committee is okay with that, because we are discussing them at the moment—"

    So what are the contingencies? And did Grayling get his way & incorporate eye-watering penalties whereby privateers get compensated with public money whether or not they deliver, fail or walk away?

  5. And lets not forget another option for the CRCs that does 't seem to have been clarified either:

    "Q71 Ian Swales: Can I just get an answer to my other question, which is about the ownership of community rehabilitation companies? Given that you are setting them up as companies with shares and so on—therefore, tradeable and what-have-you—what constraints, if any, are you placing on the long-term ownership of those companies? The most extreme one would be that the ownership reverts to the public sector if the original bidder decides to walk away or is sacked. But what about the point I made, that it is quite possible that the original bidders may then seek to exit by cashing in and selling to—potentially, I guess—a couple of the companies that did not bid in the first place?

    Antonia Romeo: They would not be able to change ownership without discussing it with the MOJ.

    Ian Swales: Well, that’s different.

    Q72 Mr Bacon: As long as they talk to you about it, then they can sell. That is not what you meant, is it? Or is it?

    Antonia Romeo: I am deliberately trying not to find myself in a position where I reveal too much during the process of a live competition. We have quite clearly set out in the contracts the basis on which such changes would be made, but what is quite clear is that they would have to get permission from MOJ to do that."

    So will MoJ allow CRCs to be sold on or not? Is this another sneaky 'workaround' ?

  6. And what about the assets, e.g. buildings, etc?

    "Q99 Meg Hillier: Dame Ursula, you are more of an optimist than I am. Most of these companies are still trying to cut the corners. To be fair to them sometimes it is not entirely their fault if they cannot find the premises. My constituency is now so expensive that finding the right premises would be very challenging. We will try to be imaginative if we can help.

    Dame Ursula Brennan: One thing we are saying is that we are not suddenly going to make all those property changes happen at once. One thing we want to do is to say that when things start, people will still be co-located. They need time to work out what is going to be the best way to organise themselves. We are not going to precipitate a change in relation to things like estates.

    Q100 Meg Hillier: Are you keeping a balance sheet of what you have got and what you are losing?

    Dame Ursula Brennan: Yes.

    Q101 Meg Hillier: Can you present that to us at some future point? It is quite important that we watch.

    Dame Ursula Brennan: We will be able to."

    Lets hope Dame Ursula left that document somewhere in the office - it might be a good time to review what remains & what's been lost, where its gone & at what cost.

  7. Joe says "sentencers do not seem to care too much" about the future of probation.

    Trouble is sentencers have no public means to express their feelings appropriately. I have no doubt they do care when they see court POs rushing around like headless chickens doing several peoples' jobs. They probably care that monitoring community orders and breach procedures have gone down the tubes because of the split between NPS and CRC and probably also commercial confidentiality.

    There is a very great danger that sentencers will lose confidence in probation services entirely.

  8. One last indulgence from the 2014 PAC please, relating to a bizarre exchange about rigorous contract monitoring following the translation fiasco with ALS:

    "Mr Bacon: ... a cat, a rabbit, and a dead dog... were registered successfully (as translation suppliers) and when the owners of these animals, including the dead dog, did not answer further questions, they were still offered work under the interpreters contract by the contractor, ALS, so it is not a frivolous question.

    Dame Ursula Brennan: I believe we dispute that.

    Mr Bacon: Well, it was in the newspapers—

    Dame Ursula Brennan: It was indeed.

    Mr Bacon: —so of course there is a 50% chance that it is not true, but some extraordinary things have gone on, and that is certainly also true in relation to the tagging contract; you would not deny that.

    Dame Ursula Brennan: I do not know that there are any cats and dogs involved in the tagging contract, but the tagging contracts were indeed a serious problem to us, and I am very pleased that we have now managed to get a substantial sum of money back from both the companies that were involved.

    Q77 Chair: And criminal prosecutions?

    Dame Ursula Brennan: Criminal prosecutions remain in play."

    Its a relief that Dame Ursula could assure us she didn't know "that there are any cats or dogs involved in the tagging contract" (really??!!) but what about criminal prosecutions? Is anyone aware of any developments there? Were criminal charges preferred against anyone from G4S or Serco for fraudulent acquisition of public monies? Again, no follow up by PAC as far as I can tell.

    But Mr Bacon's concerns might have relevance when trying to locate the 60% of EVR payments that Sodexo palmed into their own pockets when they bullied staff into voluntary severance and paid only 40% of the nationally agreed figure as they hacked their way through employment law and the spirit of the contracts.

  9. Whilst I very much admire (and to some extent envy) Joe Kuipers' optimism, enthusiasm & positivity, I also tend to agree with the Anon posts highlighting that inherent in the demolition derby that is TR too many people have gotten away with too much without being brought to book for their actions, e.g. Grayling, Romeo, Brennan, Spurr etc. Ideologue politicians and allegedly political neutral civil servants have expedited a disastrous series of decisions, skirting around any notion of accountability whilst ignoring all evidence that told them it was risky. They toyed with the Public Accounts Committee & it is probably only the General Election that saved them from a further savaging by Ms Hodge. But as highlighted in the extracts posted on this blog today, where is the follow-up by the PAC? This is supposed to be the Committee that protects the public purse & reins in (or at least acknowledges) misuse, malpractice & incompetence.

    1. They were probably warned off.

      We've seen what happened to Dr David Kelly.
      And the lead singer from Squeeze........

      Sorry, that last one is tomorrow's headlines!

    2. And what happened to Jill dando

  10. So much damage already done to CRC staff-some already brainwashed into dodgy working practice's! i.e....a man gets long prison sentence for serious new offences. He comes to NPS with a outstanding CO with CRC, not dealt with by crown court! I asked that they apply to court to have their order revoked for 'interests of justice'. They refused and said its now a NPS case so my job, and if they were to do it, it would be recorded as a failure, so better nps do it! Can't quite believe it, NPS covering up for CRC failures, spooky- they get paid, but NPS did the work!

    1. If you did you job right in the first place knob head them wouldn't have committed the offence on the CO warranting the prison sentence. The issue here is that the job wasn't done properly

    2. I was thinking the same 19.28

    3. 18.53 this is a nps problem as they work in court so they should have asked the order to be revoked. Typical lazy nps can't be bothered to do their job so they blame the crc

    4. do you know that many, many court results are not covered now as NPS court staff (mainly PSOs) are writing 90% of all chances are no-one was in court

    5. This is because of the blurred line between NPS and CRC. The Order should have been revoked on sentencing and the NPS should have ensured this. Since it wasn't, the CRC should have to revoked the Order to complete the handover as it was with them. Since the case has already handed over and is now with the NPS, who also run the Courts, makes it an NPS responsibility.

    6. 19:28 and 19:29 - try reading the original post properly: this was a CRC case that committed new offences, not 18:53's case...

      But I disagree with 18:53 - the case is now in your name, so the Community Order is yours to manage. The CRC have no right to make the application on an NPS case. I don't agree with their reasoning, but they're right that you need to deal with it, or let it expire.

  11. CEO W Yorks resigned today. Letter says offered CEO package but did not take it. An unhappy CEO???

    1. If true very commendable, but they should take the package.

    2. Anon 19:38 what letter please?

    3. Don't be thick ! No package = no compromise means a bitter constructive case is well on the cards No CPO would walk for free grow up posters.

    4. Unless there's something we don't know, like when David Scott was scapegoated and forced to resign. Thinking about Sonnex it's weird that all those failures, the high caseloads the overworked inexperienced staff, are now commonplace and accepted in probation services.


  12. Bill Mchugh never seemed unhappy to me the bloke was mad about TR


    2. From April 2008-April 2014 he was seconded to MoJ with responsibilities including "Delivery of national IT based offender assessment and case recording system to all Probation Trusts and Prisons." - i.e. he's responsible for OASys and Delius!

  13. Worked with Bill in Northumbria anything but a yes guy my experience was positive proper grass roots probation

    1. I would type about our experience but not sure how to spell the word 'alledgedly'

  14. I also worked with Bill - the most funny, irreverent man I ever worked with, loved to shock and push the behaviour code to the limit, yet raced through the ranks to reach top spot. I still recall him doing a 'spot on' impersonation of Jimmy Somerville, dancing, stripped to the waist, to 'Don't Leave Me This Way' in a Newcastle pub on a Probation night out in the 90's. He was warned by staff to put on his shirt or be kicked out! He left in 2001 to be team manager in Hull and sent us all an email photo of 'the view from his office window', strangely looking like a view of Venice.... Yes, Bill is certainly his own man, and I wish him the best of luck. It will be interesting to see what he does next.

    1. Probation Officer12 January 2016 at 00:21

      I've never met him but from what I hear he sounds like a real person who did a real job. Just reading this alone makes me think that's the exact type of person we want as a probation leader. Instead we're left with too many of these MoJ nodding jobs as Probation CEO's and directors. Maybe Bill wasn't prepared to stroke the palm of Sodexo Links & Co, and maybe nor was he willing to sell his soul for a spot with the HMIP, MoJ or Parole Board. If only we had a few more Bill's and Joe's at the helm in the run up to TR it may have been different. I fear the only words and actions that count at this stage are Michael Gove's!

    2. Message from Bill McHugh- 11th January 2016

      Dear Colleagues,

      In line with my commitment to be open and honest with employees, I am writing to confirm that after much deliberation I have decided to resign my post as Chief Executive Officer of West Yorkshire CRC. I was originally offered the NOMS CEO Voluntary Departure package but declined this as I was determined to succeed in leading the organisation through the transition from the old Trust to new ownership as a CRC. This was a challenging time but we did it together.

      I can confirm my anticipated leaving date will be 7th April 2016.

      I shall be working closely with Martin Davies CEO for HLNY, as he is to assume additional responsibility for WYCRC. I know that you will extend a warm welcome to him. Both senior management teams will work collaboratively to ensure stability and business continuity.

      During my time with you I have been delighted with the kindness and loyalty you have shown me. What I have also experienced in WYCRC epitomises everything that is the best in public service. Your commitment and professionalism is recognised by many, particularly by Interserve colleagues. I have no doubt that you will continue to make a positive difference to those who live and work in West Yorkshire.

      I hope to meet with as many of you as possible before I leave to thank you personally for all your hard work and dedication.

      I am so proud to have been part of your history and wish you all the very best for the future.


    3. ML 23:51 my experience of Bill was from his time as Chief Officer in Northants.

      If I remember rightly, during this time we moved away from Directors (ACOs) who knew probation and knew risk and moved more towards managers who held management qualifications but seemed to know little else. As far as we could tell, no probation qualifications. This was frustrating for POs and SPOs when trying to get them to understand risk. Given that they had to sign off recalls, even more so.

      And whilst it is said here he is not a ‘yes man’ he did appear to be surrounded by them.

      I don’t know why Bill left Northants. We eventually heard that he had been ‘promoted’ on secondment.

      Probation Officer 00:21 I would advise caution in describing someone we don’t know enough about as ‘the exact type of person we want as a probation leader’. He may well be exactly what we need but I would want to know more before I was sure about this.

    4. Be funny if he turned up working in another CRC, maybe he got a better offer from Sod Exo?