Thursday, 2 June 2016

News Roundup 3

A collection of various news stories that we don't seem to have covered. First off, a reminder of what happens when you privatise a service to save money and payments are connected to performance - the figures get fiddled. G4S embarrassingly get caught out again with a high-profile police contract that was supposed to be emulated elsewhere. This from the Telegraph:- 

Five G4S police control room staff suspended amid 999 'test calls' investigation

Five police control room staff have been suspended amid claims they made hundreds of 999 calls at quiet times to massage performance figures. The workers, employed by G4S Public Services and working for Lincolnshire Police, are alleged to have made the test calls to ensure faster call answering times were recorded. Emergency call handlers for the force are required to answer 92 per cent of calls within 10 seconds, or G4S Public Services is fined.

It is claimed that hundreds of illegitimate test calls were made in October, November and December 2015. Figures show 724 were carried out across those three months. In November and December the handlers failed to meet targets, dipping to 90.19 per cent in November and 89.24 per cent in December on genuine calls.

The alleged bogus test calls would have put the figures at around 93 per cent. Managing director for G4S Public Services John Shaw said: 

"We have suspended five employees today and have taken swift action to begin our investigation process. While I can reassure the public that at no stage did the actions of these people put the public or police colleagues at risk, I am nevertheless dismayed that this group of staff sought to influence important performance measurements. We continue to work closely with the force and share any data and other information required. There is no place for anyone in our organisation who behaves in this way and their actions undermine the commitment and the good work of their colleagues."
The Crown Prosecution Service has said that there is no evidence of criminal activity at this stage, instead the inquiry is an internal disciplinary matter. Lincolnshire Police said:
 "Today five force control room staff have been suspended from duty and have been informed they are under investigation. We will be seeking further information by interviewing these members of staff jointly with G4S. These matters will now be dealt with through staff disciplinary procedures and the investigation must take its course. We have established that at no stage has there been any risk to the safety of members of the public. Arrangements have been made for the smooth operation of the force control room to continue and the service to the public will not be adversely affected."
Watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission supervised the investigation. The Lincolnshire Police 999 call centre is the only one managed by G4S. Shadow police minister Jack Dromey said: 
"These are incredibly serious allegations. Emergency response times can mean the difference between life and death, and yet call data appears to have been purposely manipulated for financial gain. Time and time again G4S have let down the public. This case raises serious questions about the ability of G4S to play a role in vital and sensitive public contracts."

Here's a report in the Guardian about another government attempt at saving money by privatising back office functions:-

Privatisation at Whitehall offices has cost £4m more than it saved

A Cabinet Office plan to privatise some of Whitehall’s office functions and save up to £500m a year has instead cost £4m and is beset with problems, an official spending watchdog has found. Ministers transferred back-office functions – human resources, payroll and accounts – to the private sector two-and-a-half years ago in a plan which was supposed to “radically improve efficiency across departments”.

At the time, the cabinet minister Francis Maude said: “There is absolutely no need for departments and arm’s-length bodies to have their own back-office functions, and duplicate efforts, when they can be delivered more efficiently by sharing services and expertise. Plus it will save the taxpayer half a billion pounds a year.”

The National Audit Office has examined the “shared services” initiative and found that instead of saving at least £128m a year, it has saved £90m – £4m less than it has cost. In a highly critical report, auditors said that delays in its roll-out mean that costs will continue to rise. Confidence in the entire project “is now low”, the NAO found, with further costs also incurred in drawing up contingency measures and dealing with the fact delays have already rendered some elements of the new system out of date. Auditors said the Cabinet Office “did not act in a timely and effective manner” because it “did not see this as its role” and had “only recently taken a more active approach to dealing with the issues that have been raised”.

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “It’s shocking the Cabinet Office has failed to convince other government departments to adopt a programme that was supposed to deliver significant savings for the taxpayer. This comes after repeated warning from the NAO and the public accounts committee that the programme was not working. It’s yet another failure from the prime minister’s own department.”

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is an all-too-familiar story of Tory ministers cutting and privatising, only to find they have wasted money and damaged services. We opposed the privatisation of shared services because we did not believe it would deliver the savings that were promised and we have been proved right.”

The 2013 civil service reform plan introduced by Maude saw the creation of two shared services centres which would handle human resources, payroll and accounts for up to 14 departments and their arm’s-length bodies. The Cabinet Office signed contracts with two private sector companies – Arvato UK and Steria – to operate the centres. Auditors found there were initial weaknesses in the programme and these were exacerbated by the Cabinet Office’s failure to take control of the project. While recent governance and leadership changes had been welcomed by departments and the two private suppliers involved, the NAO warned that “previous efforts in this area have not produced results”.  It said: “The government has repeatedly failed to learn the lessons from its experiences of shared services.” However, it acknowledged that blame lay also with contractors Steria and Arvato UK.

The scale of the problems was underlined when an arm of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills pulled out of its contract arguing it was “no longer viable”. The Cabinet Office has redrawn its projections and is now hoping for major savings. A departmental spokesman said: “As the report states, the Independent Shared Service Centres have already saved £90m, and are forecast to make a further £504m in savings for the government and police by 2023/24. “The report recognises that the Cabinet Office is addressing the challenges involved in managing digital transformation, but we accept that we need to go further, and we will.”


An interesting blog post from the Guerilla website citing another government flagship project that's in trouble:-

Fraud and error in Universal Credit

Universal Credit was supposed, through some process I can’t claim to understand, to reduce fraud and error in the benefit system. According to the Business Case, there were supposed to be reduced overpayments worth £14 billion over twelve years, or £1.16 billion per annum. I commented in 2012, and again last December, that I found this claim implausible: Universal Credit doesn’t do anything about most of the circumstances which lead to fraud and error, but it does add layers of complexity to make confusion and mistakes more likely. Now we have the first figures from the DWP on fraud and error in Universal Credit. Universal Credit was overpaid by 7.3%, compared to 5.0% of JSA (the nearest comparable benefit) and 5.2% of Housing Benefit. It was underpaid by 2.6%, while JSA was underpaid by 0.8%. The system makes more mistakes in both directions. The DWP points to the complexity of managing some claims – but that, of course, is the point.

The DWP summary pleads that the difference between UC and JSA is ‘not statistically significant”, and that in any case UC and JSA are not directly equivalent. True enough, but Universal Credit was supposed to cut fraud and error by somewhere between a third and a half of all overpayments. If UC was supposed to save a third but is actually costing nearly fifty per cent more, the level of fraud and error is running at more than double what was expected. If it was supposed to save half, it’s three times what it should be.


It doesn't look like the MoJ plans for modernising the courts is going to plan as the woman in charge jumps ship after barely a year in post. This from the Guardian:-

UK courts chief to leave job after just over a year

Natalie Ceeney, the widely praised senior civil servant leading the £700m programme to modernise the courts, is to leave after little more than a year in the job. Her surprise departure from the £180,000-a-year post of chief executive of HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) was announced by the Ministry of Justice on Thursday.

Ceeney, 44, who served as president of Cambridge University students’ union, had previously worked as an NHS manager before moving rapidly through senior positions at the National Archives, the British Library, the Financial Ombudsman Service and HSBC in the City. She joined HMCTS in January last year as the service was belatedly attempting to join the digital age. Most trials are still conducted using massive bundles of paper. Underused courthouses are being sold off and mechanisms developed for online justice.

Ceeney, who was appointed a CBE in 2010, was hailed as bringing fresh energy to working methods she herself had described as “more than archaic”. There was no explanation of why she was going or what she intended to do next. In a statement issued through the MoJ, Ceeney said: 

“I joined HM Courts and Tribunals Service caring deeply about what we’re here to do, and determined to lead transformation so that we can continue to support the delivery of justice in a digital age. After years of underinvestment, we’ve now secured over £1bn of investment, and have well and truly started to deliver. Seeing the first stages of delivery over the last year, through the digitalisation of the criminal courts infrastructure, has, I hope, given everyone confidence that this transformation is real and deliverable.There is a strong team in place to lead the work, and it now feels like an appropriate time to hand the baton on to a successor to see through the transformation over the next four to five years. I’m also very grateful for the unwavering support of the senior judiciary and the HMCTS board, as well as the full support that ministers and senior departmental colleagues have shown to what HMCTS is trying to achieve during my time in post.”
Responding to her exit, the justice secretary, Michael Gove, and the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said in a joint statement: “Supported by a strong senior management team, Natalie has laid the foundation for the HMCTS reform programme. We are both grateful to her for her hard work and dedication over the last year in setting in motion this programme which is of utmost importance to the government and the judiciary.” Ceeney will leave HMCTS at the end of the month. She will be replaced by Kevin Sadler who will be interim chief executive.


I guess this report might have something to do with her swift departure. From the BBC website:-

Criminal justice system near breaking point, MPs warn

The criminal justice system in England and Wales is failing victims and witnesses and is close to "breaking point", MPs have warned. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the system was "bedevilled by long-standing poor performance, including delays and inefficiencies". The committee's report also warned that cutbacks were affecting the ability of courts to deliver justice.

The PAC found that about two-thirds of trials in crown courts were delayed or did not go ahead at all. There was a backlog of 51,830 cases awaiting a hearing as of September last year, it said, with an average 134-day wait between cases leaving magistrates' courts and the start of crown court proceedings. This was up from a 99-day average wait two years ago. Only 55% of witnesses said they would be willing to be witnesses again, with 20% being made to wait four hours or more to give evidence in court.

PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier said: "These are damning statistics. An effective criminal justice system is a cornerstone of civil society but ours is at risk. Too little thought has been given to the consequences of cutbacks with the result that the system's ability to deliver justice, together with its credibility in the eyes of the public, is under threat."


Finally, this seems too ridiculous to be true, but as it's in the Guardian, it must be:-

CPS reminds police that dead cannot be prosecuted over past child abuse

The director of public prosecutions has been forced to remind chief constables that the dead cannot be charged with criminal offences, amid a huge increase in investigations into historical child abuse. Alison Saunders issued the directive to senior officers, reminding them that only those who are living can be tried in a criminal court, because CPS lawyers are being bombarded with files of evidence from police seeking charging decisions on deceased suspects.

“Since deceased persons cannot be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service will not make a charging decision in respect of a suspect who is deceased,” the guidance states. “This applies in all cases where the suspect is deceased, including cases in which the police made a referral to the CPS for a charging decision prior to the suspect’s death. The CPS will also not make hypothetical charging decisions.”

Prosecutors and police are dealing with a huge increase in investigations into past child abuse as the revelations about Jimmy Savile continue to resonate. They anticipate an even greater rise in the number of cases of non-recent abuse as the Goddard inquiry into institutional child abuse begins its public hearings into alleged institutional cover-ups in Lambeth, the Catholic church, the Church of England and Westminster.

Operation Hydrant, the overarching national investigation into sexual abuse in the past, which is liaising with the Goddard inquiry, has more than 2,228 investigations on its database, including investigations into 302 people of public prominence. The suspects involved include 286 dead people.

The warning shot to senior officers comes amid controversy over a decision by Wiltshire police to continue their investigation into the late prime minister Sir Edward Heath, after the claim which sparked the investigation was found to be groundless.

On Thursday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it had found no evidence to support an allegation by a retired police officer that a brothel madam’s criminal trial was dropped in the 1990s when she threatened to out Heath as a paedophile. It was alleged that the case against Myra “Ling Ling” Forde was shelved when she threatened to tell the press she had been “supplying young boys” to Heath.

However, both prosecution and defence told the IPCC that the trial had been dropped because of a lack of witnesses. Forde was later convicted and did not make any claims about Heath. The IPCC – in its report on Thursday – said former officers had rejected their colleague’s claim and the officer had made no note of what he said had taken place. But Mike Veale, chief constable of Wiltshire police, said the investigation into claims the former PM had abused boys would continue. So far the inquiry has cost £367,965.

Keith Vaz, the chair of the home affairs select committee, has raised concerns over the rationale for the investigation, its cost and an “inappropriate” decision for a senior police officer to stand outside the late prime minister’s house to make an appeal for witnesses. Vaz said: “We will be monitoring this issue closely.”

In the new advice, the CPS says that police may want to continue an investigation if a suspect dies during their inquiry, because living suspects could be linked to the dead person. But she said her lawyers would not be giving hypothetical advice on whether the deceased could have been charged.

“When advising on or making charging decisions in such cases, the CPS may need to consider the role played by the deceased suspect, and the evidence against that suspect,” the guidance said. “Although the CPS may undertake a detailed review of the evidence against the deceased in these circumstances, it will not make a charging decision in respect of the deceased.”


  1. I'd like to ask the world's 18th largest employer why it now regularly takes a half day to get a computer password reset where once it took 5 minutes. Pourquoi? RSVP.

  2. You seriously couldn't make up this litany of corruption and ineptitude if you tried.

  3. For the second time in a month, I have spent valluable time hunched over a computer terminal completing an assessment by pasting "I have not yet met Mx X but have to complete this assessment in order to meet target" into the boxes, plus some bits and pieces from a clearly hurried court report. This is known as "gaming" the targets, or otherwise, Absolute pants

    1. If you haven't yet met them and therefore they haven't yet attended for a first appointment, the sentence plan target doesn't apply. Clock starts ticking from the first appointment, not allocation

    2. But that first appointment may not necessarily be with the author of the sentence plan or even with the same provider. For example, an drug test recorded on nDelius conducted in an approved premises by an NPS member of staff will start the clock for a CRC managed case even though the contact was not added by a CRC member of staff.

    3. Blimey, how have you managed to get a CRC managed case into an AP? Strictly off limits here - approved premises only for high risk NPS clients!!

  4. I can only assume the Police are determined to charge dead people because they are an easy target and can't defend themselves. Win win - another box ticked.

    1. Victims need justice, kind of glad the Police are investigating even though they cannot prosecute, maybe others were complicit or involved?

  5. This blog is becoming boring. It used to be worthwhile but intelligence of debate is lacking

  6. an advert has gone out internally in my CRC begging 'critical business need for PSOs'. 1st dibs to those facing redundancy; permanent staff; fixed term contracts and finally temps. It almost sounds as though anyone with a pulse who applies will get in. This makes me worry - some of us doing this job a long time make it look easy when the reality is very different indeed.

  7. Have all the Sodexo CEOs gone/going? Prison governor to run the southern CRCS!!!