Friday, 19 January 2018

Are Mutuals The Answer?

Seen on Facebook this from David Raho:-

Important not to see Carillion as some kind of exception that made critical mistakes. All corporations of this type are doing similar things. Very interesting to see mainstream media rallying around to support the activities and idea of multinational corporations as public service providers as if their annual bonuses depended on supporting them no matter what. The purpose of a corporation is to make profit.

I have no real problem with carefully outsourcing some services when this is to a not for profit organisation or a mutual that invests any surplus it might have back into itself in order to expand and to provide even better services. I have never supported the idea of profiting from the CJS in the form of shares and dividends as this leads to the creation of perverse incentives and the distortion of service delivery to meet targets rather than to benefit society.

When I joined Probation we were I think 80% Home Office 20% Local Authority and could plug in to all the benefits of both as local government officers. This was for many a very pleasant arrangement with both local and national oversight and accountability. We should not forget that the the Probation Trust organisations were progressive devolved government organisations with good potential despite Year on Year budget cuts and that the wisdom of reorganising Probation into pseudo public sector and contracted out or outsourced to private organisations (one staff mutual) was actually not only a step back but was anti-progressive and anti-innovation.

It is worth seriously thinking that if the bulk of Probation had been mutualised ie owned by and run by probation staff then things might be a lot better for everyone and we would have a lot more positive news rather than failure and job cuts. Perhaps there would be some interest in mutualising the lot. During TR there were bid attempts from mutuals but they were disadvantaged…/more-mutual-news.h…

The vast sums of money in guarantees and legal hurdles meant that many were compelled to hitch their waggon to bigger players who then called the shots. Russell Webster did some sterling work looking at mutuals

Unfortunately as predicted by some this has not worked out entirely well and for some proved to be extremely costly. The reckless gamble made by Grayling who apparently envisioned that the TR shakedown and sell off would bring in a diverse range of providers of Probation Services and that new players would bring new thinking, vision, opportunities and innovative approaches to bear on intractable problems that would excite and motivate staff and partners alike has not been realised and some say this was never the intention and that it was purely a smoke and mirrors ploy to ensure parliamentary acquiescence and pacify and divide opposition whilst manoeuvring the companies they wanted into running those services they want them to.…/policy-and-…/article/1319599

So what I am saying is there are other options other than on the one hand a Stalinist type centrally controlled NPS model (incidentally the very antithesis of the Tory ideal and therefore existing on borrowed time under the present administration) or on the other hand a loosely governed privatised free for all with largely clueless gung ho providers ruthlessly pursuing profit over everything else and who know they have the government over a barrel with a high level of confidence that they will be bailed out of their for profit schemes fail. Hence the fuss about Carillion because the government did not bail them out sending shockwaves through the privateer exec class flush with their Xmas bonuses who were no doubt relishing another year of tax payer fleecing in collusion with their friends in government.

Trusts and mutuals can and do work very well if the government of the day chooses to provide the environment to support them. The idea that the government would actually favour quality over cost cutting and privateering sounds pretty radical.

So I think we need to start looking forward towards next steps and start envisioning not how others think the Probation service should be like and how it should be run but what we think it should look like and how it should be run. Part of this is to divest ourselves of the negative baggage of TR and combat the damage and ugliness it has caused to us and our professional reputation and status.

Most probation staff value the skills and experience of their colleagues equally whatever organisation they were assigned to and so it is particularly galling for me to hear and witness that there is now an unwritten artificial hierarchy and division of probation staff that has been imposed and allowed to develop, encouraged aided and abetted by certain spin doctors who are not our friends, that peddles the myth that one staff group of equally experienced, capable and identically trained probation staff are now not as good or of a lower class than the other just because of who their employers are and what responsibilities happen to be assigned to them. 

It is disappointing that intelligent grown up persons apparently believe this tribal myth of superiority and are buying into the baseless belief of brown eyes good blue eyes bad or vice versa ( that runs counter to decades of established probation values and is a terribly divisive betrayal of all that is decent in the probation profession and what it stands for. Stop helping to peddle this divisive nonsense now and think instead of the positive ways we can unify and rebuild or profession together.

The involvement of multinational corporations in probation has damaged our reputation because of their way of doing things not ours.…/jeremy-corbyn-video-carillio…


Dean Rogers I don't want to scaremonger but the parallels between Carillion and Interserve are very worrying. A really interesting piece David A Raho. I agree we need to start the debate about what future options are now. Nationalisation is a slogan but in practice the MoJ is dysfunctional. Some of us in Napo have been looking at options for a while and we're pushing the debate hard over the coming months. For me, the key pillars must be common national standards; two way public accountability; and removal of cancerous profit motives. Increasingly mutualisation looks like an idea who's time has come but there needs to be safer, fairer commissioning model that facilitate 2 way accountability without insurmountable bureaucracy or cost. There also needs to be support for those wanting to explore this as making mutualisation work isn't easy either...but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Very good piece and I like your ideas! Don’t think it would tempt me to return to permanent work - I enjoy my current autonomy - but for the future of a service I committed to for many years and want to see it succeed - I would support any moves to help this happen!


I feel torn between a rock and a hard place. Since privatisation I've wanted all CRCs to fail and go bankrupt but seeing how shit roles down hill I'm worried if this did happen the CEOs would be fine and it would be the worker ants losing their income. Can such a mess ever be turned around?

Dean Rogers You're right to see there are no easy answers. There are alternative models and it is unlikely that all or most of the current owners will pitch up to renew their contracts so the State will probably have to look at a different model. Napo and others are already exploring options and promoting the debate with politicians, academics, etc (e.g. we are holding an event in the Welsh Assembly on this next month) and looking to include Members, victims and those with lived experience as ideas develop. It is important though that we hang all this on how important probation is and have a balanced, honest but positive message about how rewarding it can still be - if everyone thinks it's a basket case they'll never listen us.

But I bet the chief executives have got nice houses and good pensions out of it and so the general public suffer because the offenders aren’t getting there needs met, because over workers under staff and loss of mo jo. (Spirit). But those at the top are all right, so who cares. Sad times.

I just pray the pension pots haven't been dipped in to!!

Dean Rogers LGPS is secure. Only employer to significantly miss contributions since the split is the NPS...Napo spotted in and were on it quickly. New starters in the CRC are not in guaranteed schemes so less expensive for the employer and little incentive to skip payments. Carillion had contracts with very expensive historical schemes that were not being monitored by unions.

Yet another fuck up, that the taxpayer has to foot the bill...privatisation again not working despite the sweeteners at the bidding process....

Work is being taken from the NPS to give to the CRC's it's a crock of shit

David A Raho Many CRCs have carried out radical staffing cuts, office closures, and have high attrition rates of experienced staff at all grades. In certain cases CRCs are in the process of replacing POs with less expensive PSOs etc As a result in most cases they have effectively reduced their capacity to take on any new work and are struggling to do the work they have. What we would not want to see is for currently understaffed NPS community teams to be simply TUPE’d across to the CRC (the clue is in the title) companies and for remaining NPS staff (such as those working in prisons) to be absorbed into HMPPS in the process. The NPS was disappeared before and could easily be disappeared again. HMCTS would simply absorb current NPS court staff. These would be relatively easy solutions that the government could implement fairly rapidly. It is perhaps more strategically productive for our purposes to focus the debate on solutions that will bring us together. Spurr will wish to do his political masters bidding.

A diabolical combination - Spurr's disinformation and Grayling's kiss-of-death incompetence are the curse of Probation. Spurr's lack of principle is stupefying.


  1. Back in 2011/12 there was quite a focus on mutuals, and some funding for schemes were made available. Unfortunately, the neolibral desire to detach the state from anything public won through and the way to achieve that aim was to instead to focus on wholesale privatisation.
    I think the appetite for mutuals maybe returning now.

    1. The minister for civil society, Tracey Crouch, today announced that organisations wishing to become or grow as public service mutuals can bid for a share of a £1.7m fund.

      Public service mutuals are organisations which have been ‘spun out’ out of the public sector, but continue to deliver public services. Employee control is a key aspect of mutual and they can be structured as a co-operative or a social enterprise. Some £1.2m is available to create new or strengthen existing mutual and the remaining £500,000 is to pilot support programmes such as improving collaboration with other voluntary and community organisations.

      Tracey Crouch, minister for sport and civil society, said: “Mutuals are run under the influence of employees to support the delivery of public services and we want to help them thrive. “This £1.7m funding will deliver training, support programmes and mentoring to expand the high quality services mutuals provide to communities across the country.”

      Organisations can check if they are eligible for funding by contacting the Mutuals Team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on:

      This round of funding is available until March 2020.

  2. Just another distraction. Mutuals may have been viable as an alternative to Trusts, but now they've sampled the 'power of power' the concept will be corrupted by the greed of egocentric vultures who have shown how willing they are to sell out their staff for handsome reward.

    I certainly agree the Trusts were the ideological precursor to TR, creating 42 discrete fiefdoms with 42 'chiefs' to seduce, divide & rule. For the most part they played right into the hands of the ideologues - and yes, the ideology came before Grayling & even before the coalition govt. It was a Blue Labour initiative tee'd up by the legislation snuck in by the arrogant closet capitalists in 2006/7; the very same legislation that Grayling seized upon to impose TR.

  3. Leading up to the last election Michael Gove said that the public were fed up of experts and armchair philosophers. Well, this is a good example of that sort of rubbish. The Titanic of Probation is sinking and these two are worrying about what the orchestra is playing!
    What have either of these two characters contributed to the fight to preserve any sort of service? What ability do they have to influence the political agenda on Probation? What do they think they can achieve by posting this sort of stuff on Facebook?
    Honestly! Please grow up.

    1. "What do they think they can achieve by posting this sort of stuff on Facebook?"

      A discussion?

    2. With who each other and their friends on like me status hardly informing any debate.

  4. Yes 8.36 that is the honest summing up of where all this started and goes back to. Often gets lost in the even more awful implementations that followed. Absolutely why many people have realised the neoliberal so-called left agenda was in fact a wolf in sheep's clothing, and why it must stop, sooner rather than later. That is why we need a proper Labour left wing, and the party needs to defeat the dangerous Torys, (and the right of the left)! There lies some hope in the sort of values many of us want for a more human and tolerant society - which includes management of offenders, and effective rehabilitation strategies - because carry on like we are and it'll end up with theveryone death penalty, and people having their hands chopped off for shoplifting. But then we all get want we for.

  5. I know it's "on probation blog" but..
    Is probation really in any worse a state then the NHS, prisons, schools, social care, manufacturing or retail?
    Probation is one part of a very broken society and economic system.
    Understandably everyone focuses on the parts that affect them the most. But capitalism dosent work for 95% of the population because they haven't any capital. At least not enough capital to compete on a fair plying field.
    Are mutuals the answer? They're certainly better then the profit first corporations that are swallowing everything up, and not just for probation but across the social spectrum.
    But the real answer is the election of a government with a social ethos.
    People and profit can live side by side quite happily if it's not an exploitative relationship.
    Society functions best when the people that belong to it have some stake in it, so mutuals and cooperatives are a step in the right direction, but we need a leap. We need a change of government.


    1. 'Getafix you must have read my mind - we're going 'off piste' again tomorrow.....

  6. Raho and rogers the Rolls Royce of the union voice? A lot of reading which is really a view on the ideology without much else. Boring as it was the highlight for me was the old blue eyes brown eyes socially constructed and artificially adopted by NPS we are the new elite my manager confirmed this. Why are we so confident , because we are the remaining public service. The rest CRC sold off as not so important. Its a poor indication the trade Union senior management engage in these musings. They should be busy in real challenges and defence of the memberships who pay their salaries. There should be no defence to setting public services into mutual our work going is where they are opening the door to all comers not professional PO. It illustrates further the wrong direction from this pair. They have an accord the pathway they walk is more of the same error because they agree alternative models should be state funded than wholly public sector ownership. This is enough of a reason not to support these two washed ups trying to ride two horses. Why, what sales pitch is being hawked here. The calamitous departure from national collective bargaining was orchestrated by Rolls and Royce as a pair weakening local and national structures. They have damaged the standing of the Union they are supposed to strengthen. What is going here? It is well known National collective bargaining was our unifying force. Where does this stuff come from anyway should it not be on behalf of NAPO and published on the NAPO site ?

    1. Funny, I never saw the probation trusts as progressive or especially devolved as they were all too busy aping each other to show who was the leanest by cutting away as many conditions of service as possible - always with the assurance they were protecting jobs. So not a role model in my view.

    2. Point well made and accepted here but they are light years in front of the retrenching backwards looking waste of everyone's thinking time the awful despicable careless slapdash hazard called the CRC.

    3. 10:24 Raho and Rogers were not in anyway responsible for the end of national collective bargaining that was never sustainable after the split. Napo did well prior to the split to get the Probation Trusts around the table and even then there were some who would rather not have been there. They observed what had already happened and anticipated the direction of travel rather than covering this up or minimising this as some might have done. The NPS were the first to walk away and when the owners started to walk the only option was to negotiate local collective bargaining with the CRCs and national with the NPS. Remember NPS and CRC employers found it a waste of time and served notice to quit. NAPO did not have the strength and the MoJ did not have the political will (Spurr???) to sustain it. Do you seriously think that the MoJ would have given two hoots if Napo had threatened industrial action over this? Do you think the public whould have given a toss about it? The MoJ knew that the bids included job cuts and other nasty surprises and that is why they were and are top secret. Do you seriously think that Grayling or Spurr would have gone out of their way to empower unions to force private companies into any sort of legally binding agreement to bargain with them collectively if they weren't forced to? To think otherwise would be naive. Napo is fortunate that at least some of those involved are awake and know when a battle is lost. Had membership been increasing dramaticallly and there was a grass roots groundswell of probation staff demanding that the employers go back to the table then perhaps one or two of them might have thought twice but what you find with the probation employers is that they all loathe each other almost as much as they loathe probation staff and finding innovative ways to stick it to us is the only thing they have in common.

  7. In other news, it looks like Bob Neill is losing his rag with Michael Spurr over the HMI report on Liverpool:-

    Chair's comment
    Bob Neil MP said:

    "The Inspectorate's report is one of the worst I have ever seen.

    A situation as bad as this raises urgent questions for the prison's leadership, regional and national management and for the Government who seem to have collectively failed in their duty.

    If the new Urgent Notification Protocol between the Chief Inspector and the Minister was in place, would we have seen a quicker and more robust response?

    I need convincing that the change project underway at the prison will resolve the extensive range of basic and obvious shortcomings and I am sceptical about whether the Ministry's plans to empower prison governors will prevent such failing in future.

    The Justice Committee will be holding an evidence session on this matter next week, to consider how the Government and Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service have responded to what the Chief Inspector has called 'the abject failure of HMP Liverpool to offer a safe, decent and purposeful environment'".

    1. Michael Spurr getting his excuses lined up and seems to be blaming his political masters now - this from the Guardian:-

      Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the Prison and Probation Service since 2010, promised improvements at both jails.

      Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he accepted the findings of the reports but said they should be seen in the context of underinvestment.

      Asked if he had a grip of the problems, Spurr said: “We have been managing a service that has had to deal with significant pressures over those eight years.”

      The prison service has suffered a real-terms budget cut of 40% since 2010, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

      Spurr claimed recent decisions to reverse some of those cuts would help improve conditions. “Now the government is investing £1.3bn to modernise the prison estate. It is also investing £100m to increase staffing resources. Some of those staff are in Nottingham and over time will make a difference. Additional staff are also in Liverpool and those staff are already beginning to make a difference,” he said.

      “The investment that we hadn’t had for a number of years is now in place, and with that investment we will be able to make improvement across the prison service.”

      Spurr said of conditions at Liverpool, where inspectors found rats, cockroaches, damp, and leaking toilets: “There have been failings at Liverpool and some of that is about leadership. I accept that we should have taken cells that weren’t fit for use out of use much earlier than we did.”

      He linked the conditions to the government’s decision to scrap plans for a new prison in the city. “Liverpool for many years has not had the investment it needed in the residential accommodation. A new prison would have relieved pressure on Liverpool. The investment for that wasn’t available – it was scrapped in 2010.”

      Spurr also claimed the prison service was “robustly managing” Amey, the company contracted to clean and maintain Liverpool prison.

      Spurr said: “We have not been able to reduce violence at Nottingham to the extent we would have wanted. Nottingham along with other prisons has suffered from a significant influx of psychoactive drugs that have often been supplied to prisons by organised criminals and new ways of getting those drugs into prisons that were named in the inspection report. Getting on top of those issues has proved very challenging.”

      He added: “The secretary of state for justice [David Gauke] has said he will look at this urgently. We will do exactly that.”

  8. In the media, reports about conditions at Liverpool prison focus on drones, drugs, squalor and various aspects of prisoners' safety –
    a third of prisoners reported feeling unsafe at the time of the inspection. The report puts some focus on prisoner-staff relations – it found that almost a half of prisoners feel victimised by staff this includes verbal abuse and assaults by staff. There's also evidence of unofficial punishments being meted out by staff who have a tendency to wear balaclavas when unwarranted by the situation at hand.

  9. In other, other news, a very sensible decision from the new Justice Scretary reported on BBC website:-

    The government will not challenge the decision to release rapist John Worboys, the justice secretary says.

    David Gauke said "it would not be appropriate" to seek judicial review of the Parole Board's decision to free Worboys after less than 10 years. But he said it did not stop others from taking legal action against the move.

    Former black cab driver Worboys, 60, was jailed in 2009 for assaults on 12 women in London. Mr Gauke said there would be a wider review of how the Parole Board deals with victims.

    The justice secretary said he had taken legal advice and it was not appropriate for him to proceed with the case.

    He said: "I know this will disappoint the victims in this case and members of this House given the crimes for which he has been convicted. On a personal level, candidly I share those concerns." But he added: "I can reassure the House and the public that Worboys will not be released until his licence conditions have been finalised."

    1. He has however sent Dame Glynis to report on the NPS regarding their notifying of victims and to determine if everything was done correctly.


    2. I'm still not persuaded by the current gnashing & wailing & candid politicking for 'victims'. Bear with me, before the lynch mob are dispatched...

      Firstly, who is a victim?

      The most relevant OED definition is "A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action."

      Is this harm just physical? Or psychological? Or emotional? Or financial? Or any combination of them?

      And limited to the individual 'victim'? What about friends? Family? Witnesses to the offence?

      NPS Victim Info guidance states "You’ll be invited to join the Victim Contact Scheme if the offender has committed a violent or sexual crime and been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison. This could include receiving a hospital order under the Mental Health Act."

      So who decided these qualifying criteria? Why does having all of your memories stolen or trashed in a burglary make you less of a victim than someone punched in a pub? Or having all of your lifesavings stolen by an unscrupulous fraudster make you less of a victim?

      Why does the length of sentence make you more or less of a victim?

      Who thought it would be a good idea to give the job to the agency who work with & support the perpetrators of those offences?

      I think ALL victims of behaviour intended to cause harm are 'victims' and the impact upon each individuals must surely be the measure?

      To which end I would suggest that there needs to be a specific & discrete professional Victim Service, entirely independent from Witness Support or HMPPS, which assesses & advises as to the impact of intentionally harmful behaviour upon the victim. Their role is not to ascertain the impact for the purpose of achieving compensation, merely to offer each case the opportunity to be independently assessed and for their thoughts & feelings to be dispassionately conveyed to the Courts or the Parole Board.

      And MUST be a professional service, not a tea-and-sympathy, hand-holding comfort break. Sitting & listening to the accounts of a rape, or domestic violence, or a domestic burglary, or a street robbery - these are not easy matters to hear. And certainly not easy matters to talk about.

      So let's stop pissing about. Let's stop playing party politics. And let's stop pretending we're looking after victims, when all that currently happens is that SOME victims get to see someone; but someone who might also be supervising a perpetrator of a similar offence - or the same perpetrator!! - and who is therefore severely compromised by a conflict of professional interest.

      Give ALL victims of intentional acts of harm a professional service.


    Great start to the weekend as Ian Lawrence reminds us of the PAC where has the money gone Mr Spur ? Apart from the MOJ which is a waste and should be privatised so you get to experience of how destructive professional careers blighted would feel. Not to mention the loss of career benefits stolen in the wake of the TR ruination. Some of the monies that we can account for is your 20k bonus whilst parents have lost their Children under the TR fiasco. While prisoners are languishing in rotten disgusting filthy cockroach invested prison cells. Where is all the money then apart from massive salaries at the MOJ. It is nice to important but it is more important to be nice in the life of your privilege being enjoyed whilst inmates are in danger from others . Get the reforms underway start using authority properly prevent further loss and abuse. Offer your immoral bonus to something that improves others lives instead.