Saturday, 3 February 2018

Outsourcing and Ideology

In the wake of the Carillion collapse I notice that David Raho has written a piece on Facebook:-

Could Capita be the next Carillion? Why it matters to those working in Probation.

The value of Capita’s share price was slashed by 50% this week as investors, no longer confident that the UK government would bail out their contractors, started dumping shares and shifting their money elsewhere.

Until recently Capita were considered by the government to be a safe pair of hands. A good example of this confidence was demonstrated when G4S and Serco dropped the ball regarding the electronic monitoring of offenders (EM) in 2013 and it was Capita that was asked to pick up the baton and was then subsequently awarded this lucrative contract in England and Wales with largely the same infrastructure and staff employed albeit with stronger direct MoJ oversight and open book accounts.

G4S continued to manage the EM contract in both Northern Ireland and Scotland (subject to different contracts) and after paying a £109m bung in 2014 was again allowed to continue bidding for government contracts including EM. It should not be forgotten that the Serious Fraud Office investigation with regard to both Serco and G4S’s activities in respect of EM continues. Despite this it was to G4S that the government turned when they ran into severe equipment difficulties regarding the GPS EM programme initiated by Ken Clarke when he was Justice Secretary and it is a story worthy of a two hour documentary laying bare a tale of breathtaking commercial and contractual incompetence to the tune of at least £60m of taxpayer monies. The story of how they tried to fleece successful British health monitoring firm Buddi of its intellectual property is worth 30 minutes alone.

It is therefore easy to see that the government is nervous about the prospect of Capita’s collapse as this is perhaps the clearest indication of the collapse too of the governments failed neoliberal ideological mission (a mission close to Grayling et al stony heart) to contract out and outsource the state to private companies effectively creating a shadow state one step removed from an increasingly smaller and less powerful government. By doing this the result is democratically less accountable public services (no information as it is commercially sensitive) who by attempting to produce surplus/profit from contracts actually actually end up running down or distorting the services they are contracted to provide. Some try to convince themselves that if only they had more government money then they would not do this but when the money comes it does not find its way to the front end but rather in increasing the corporate centre concerned with chasing other contracts. These organisations are only interested in hitting targets to ensure payment rather than providing quality services and investing in the future eg training and investing in staff.

Capita apparently put a cheeky bid in for London CRC but according to my sources this was reluctantly rejected by the MoJ/NOMS as it apparently proposed a 50% cut in staff and premises from the outset rather than achieving this stealthily throughout the contract as proposed by most successful bidders. They were apparently asked to address this but apparently informed the MoJ this was the only way to turn a profit as it is nigh on impossible to turn a profit in London without continuous top ups from the government or a blank cheque book. When discussed informally with MoJ staff this has never been denied.

Returning to EM....

Industry experts are pretty sure that if Capita were to collapse then the government would probably have to consider ignoring the ongoing fraud investigation and return EM to G4S or Serco or even hand this contract to the French catering firm Sodexo with G4S supplying some of the equipment or even to one of their new US friends. In other words an utter mess that could have been and could be completely avoided if the government admitted some time ago that criminal justice services including prisons and probation and electronic monitoring should never have been outsourced, as this is clearly the direct responsibility of the state, and should now be taken back into public ownership as a matter of urgency and dealt with in a consistent cost effective way throughout England and Wales.

We can therefore only hope that if Capita collapses or survives by some miracle of behind the scenes deal making then this will remind the government how vulnerable they are in respect of their criminal justice policies and perhaps prompt them to formulate a strategy to explain to the public what they are actually trying to achieve other than profit for their corporate friends and already wealthy supporters.

David Raho


There's no doubt that the Carillion collapse has turbo-charged the whole debate regarding privatisation and outsourcing and the Tories find themselves on the back foot. I notice the arch protagonist in this regard, Francis Maude, was wheeled out yesterday on the BBC Daily Politics show and in trying to defend the cause, came out with that old hackneyed argument about the public sector never innovating. We know this is crap and strangely, only the day before I learnt of an example I was completely unaware of via this 'exciting' news from Open Reach (BT to you and me):-

Openreach launches ‘Fibre First’ programme to make Fibre to the Premises broadband available to three million UK homes and businesses by the end of 2020

Openreach, Britain’s national broadband infrastructure provider, today announced an acceleration of its Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) build programme to enhance Britain’s digital infrastructure and to reinforce the UK’s position as the leading digital economy in the G20. 1

Openreach is extending its current Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) build target by 50% to reach three million premises by the end of 2020 through its new ‘Fibre First’ programme2. Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester make up the first phase of the programme which will connect up to 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs with FTTP3 with build starting in 2018. Openreach will also continue to focus on delivering FTTP to rural areas, in partnership with the Government, to make sure some of the hardest to reach communities in the UK get access to future-proofed, FTTP networks.

Fibre First reconfirms Openreach’s ambition to build a large-scale FTTP network in the UK and accelerates the next fundamental upgrade of critical UK infrastructure. With the largest FTTP footprint in the UK4, Openreach is best placed to deliver the infrastructure required, at scale, to maintain the UK’s position as a leading digital economy. An FTTP network has substantial and far-reaching benefits for UK citizens, businesses, society and the economy.The benefits include: better, more reliable service; fewer faults; and faster, more predictable and consistent speeds.The platform would be future-proof, supporting the speed requirements of customers for decades to come.


It all sounds pretty good news and you'd be forgiven for thinking that, but in this era of 'fake news' and 'alternative facts', it's worth digging around a little. Have you ever wondered why your internet connection is so rubbish? Perhaps you're relying on good old-fashioned BT and a 'twisted pair' from the telegraph pole? 

Living in a big city, I well remember getting very excited at the arrival of the 'digital super highway' in my street some 25 years ago, but could never understand why the cable company only hooked me up with coax cable and not the magic fibre optic stuff. Surely the future lay in glass, not copper? Well, it turns out we have Margaret Thatcher to thank for our crap internet connection and a key decision she made years ago for purely ideological reasons. It's an astonishing saga and as the UK heads for Brexit amid hopes for greater world markets, it makes for very sobering reading indeed. Here's the story from 2014 on the techradar website:- 

How Thatcher killed the UK's superfast broadband before it even existed

As you sit on the phone to your ISP's customer service line, listening to half-baked excuses for why you've only got 0.5Mbps upload speed and why you "need" to upgrade to "superfast" fibre optic, it may be little comfort to know that in an alternate reality you'd already have it as standard.

In 1990, a single decision by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had a devastating effect on the UK's broadband infrastructure for the next 20 years and for the foreseeable future. In a little known story about the UK's broadband history, Dr Peter Cochrane, former Chief Technology Officer at BT and all round tech guru, tells TechRadar how the UK lost the broadband race way back in the 90s.

The story actually begins in the 70s when Dr Cochrane was working as BT's Chief Technology Officer, a position he'd climbed up to from engineer some years earlier. Dr Cochrane knew that Britain's tired copper network was insufficient: "In 1974 it was patently obvious that copper wire was unsuitable for digital communication in any form, and it could not afford the capacity we needed for the future." He was asked to do a report on the UK's future of digital communication and what was needed to move forward.

"In 1979 I presented my results," he tells us, "and the conclusion was to forget about copper and get into fibre. So BT started a massive effort - that spanned in six years - involving thousands of people to both digitise the network and to put fibre everywhere. The country had more fibre per capita than any other nation. In 1986, I managed to get fibre to the home cheaper than copper and we started a programme where we built factories for manufacturing the system. By 1990, we had two factories, one in Ipswich and one in Birmingham, where were manufacturing components for systems to roll out to the local loop".

At that time, the UK, Japan and the United States were leading the way in fibre optic technology and roll-out. Indeed, the first wide area fibre optic network was set up in Hastings, UK. But, in 1990, then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, decided that BT's rapid and extensive rollout of fibre optic broadband was anti-competitive and held a monopoly on a technology and service that no other telecom company could do.

"Unfortunately, the Thatcher government decided that it wanted the American cable companies providing the same service to increase competition. So the decision was made to close down the local loop roll out and in 1991 that roll out was stopped. The two factories that BT had built to build fibre related components were sold to Fujitsu and HP, the assets were stripped and the expertise was shipped out to South East Asia. Our colleagues in Korea and Japan, who were working with quite closely at the time, stood back and looked at what happened to us in amazement. What was pivotal was that they carried on with their respective fibre rollouts. And, well, the rest is history as they say.

"What is quite astonishing is that a very similar thing happened in the United States. The US, UK and Japan were leading the world. In the US, a judge was appointed by Congress to break up AT&T. And so AT&T became things like BellSouth and at that point, political decisions were made that crippled the roll out of optical fibre across the rest of the western world, because the rest of the countries just followed like sheep. This created a very stop-start roll-out which doesn't work with fibre optic - it needs to be done en masse. You needed economy of scale. You could not roll out fibre to the home for 1% of Europe and make it economic, you had to go whole hog. It's like everything else in the electronics world, if you make one laptop, it costs billions; if you make billions of laptops it costs a few quid".

Immediately after that decision by Thatcher's government, the UK fell far behind in broadband speeds and, to this day, has never properly recovered. When the current government came to power it pledged that the UK would have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 and 90% of homes will be connected to superfast broadband by 2017.

But, as Dr Cochrane explains, there are two things wrong with this. Firstly, the government's definition of superfast broadband is 24Mbps. Secondly, comparing against Europe is pointless. "Western nations blindly compare with each other. There's no point in saying 'we're better than the French, we're better than the Germans' - that's not the point. Are we better than the Japanese, the Koreans and other competing nations?"

"[In Southeast Asia] they roared ahead. The Japanese in particular formulated a plan. While we were faffing about with half an Mbps 'being sufficient' the Japanese were rolling out 10Mbps. When we got to 2Mbps they were rolling out 100Mbps. Hong Kong in 2012 already had a gigabit both ways. In 1999 Japan already had 50Mbps universally and South Korea was comfortably using 4G by 2006. In the UK there's no vision, mission or plan, we're engaged in a random walk into the future".

It all comes down to bandwidth

The UK's fibre rollout is mostly Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC), rather than Fibre To The Home (FTTH). What's the difference? Well, FTTH is fibre optic cable directly to the home, whereas FTTC is fibre optic cable to your nearest cabinet, with copper wire taking the signal the last leg of the journey. The copper limits speeds to 80Mbps, compared with 1,000Mbps or more available in all-fibre networks.

Dr Cochrane explained: "Fibre To The Home gives you an infinity of bandwidth, both ways, that you can upgrade forever, and it's symmetric. If you go for Fibre To The Cabinet, you finish up with an asymmetric service. Now, this is really important. Why? How about the cloud, the cloud is not an asymmetric service, video conferencing is not an asymmetric service, so the whole ethos of the telecoms industry has been skewed by decision makers who think that the future of the internet is watching TV or movies, which it isn't".

"Businesses rely on symmetric bandwidth for cloud computing and video conferencing and this lack of bandwidth will put us slowly into a second world status. For example, I am sitting here, I work all over the world and say I want to upload a 350MB file. 350MB is not huge. With my old broadband, when I had less than 0.5Mbps upload you'd start in the morning and finish sometime in the middle of the night. Now I've got 32Mbps upload, I can actually watch it going. If I was in Hong Kong it would be instantaneous. Imagine having a discussion and putting a 10 second delay between each word, it wouldn't work."

New technologies, too, are hampered by low bandwidth, which has a direct effect on our ability to embrace revolutionary concepts. IBM's Watson, the learning super-computer that functions through the cloud and is able to give evidence-based medical diagnoses, will fail in the UK because a lack of bandwidth, according to Dr Cochrane.

"If you look at the story of IBM Watson, it's moving into the medical industry in the United States and you will be able soon to have an app with which you can configure Watson for your industry. It's going to change everything, from investment banking to the legal industry. That sort of service, being able to get remote diagnostics, can only occur if you've got bandwidth".

The future isn't so bright for the UK when it comes to broadband, and that's largely owing to an administration taking the wrong path 24 years ago. Unless there's massive investment in broadband infrastructure and a complete rethink at the highest levels of government, the UK will only fall further behind.

"The UK will be frozen out of cloud computing because we don't have bandwidth, worst of all we don't have symmetric bandwidth. And the UK network cannot support the population in the cloud. It will be OK if you're in a hotspot for bandwidth, and there are some hotspots of bandwidth in the UK, but for the most part the population will be frozen out. Ergo, this will hit the bottom line - it all comes down to GDP. If businesses can't operate, the UK won't generate money".


  1. Thought provoking & further proof, for me, that Thatcher was the beginning of the end of the UK as a cohesive, influential player. Her focus was on individual power & greed - and plenty across the political, industrial & social spectrum have been inspired to follow her lead. And here we are, totally fucked, with lunatics like Grayling, Johnson, Fox, May, Hunt et al running fast & loose.

    1. Apples never fall far from the tree. This from Patrick Cosgrave's obituary on Francis Maude's father, Lord Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1993:

      "But in 1975, with the advent of Margaret Thatcher, Maude's fortunes revived. She was anxious to change the intellectual direction of the Conservative Party and, in particular, to turn the party away from the collectivist notions Edward Heath had come to espouse. Major changes were made at Conservative Central Office. Maude became a deputy chairman (under Peter Thorneycroft) and, in addition - and more to his liking - Chairman of the Conservative Research Department. Maude was never an enthusiast for administration, but guiding the thinking of the Research Department was a task wholly suited to his talents. His contribution, not only in opposition, but in government after 1979, to Thatcher's complete reversal of Conservative policy has been gravely underestimated... When he left the government in 1981 he did so very much against the wishes of the Prime Minister, but not least because he did not want to stand in the way of the burgeoning political career of his son Francis."

    2. Guardian 2016

      The former cabinet minister Francis Maude has taken a job advising an international law firm on Britain’s exit from the EU, six months after standing down from government.
      Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
      Read more

      Lord Maude, who until April was a trade and investment minister, has joined Covington and Burling LLP as a senior adviser in its government affairs practice.

      Law firms and the finance industry have been setting up Brexit units to advise clients on how to understand and shape UK policy and how their commercial interests will be affected by leaving the EU.

      The appointment coincides with further pressure on the government to clamp down on former ministers who want to take up roles in the private sector that may allow them to exploit their contacts.

      Maude’s roles in government have made him one of the best connected figures in Whitehall following a 30-year career in parliament as an MP and minister.

      He was the minister for trade and investment under David Cameron from 2015 to 2016. Before that he was minister for the Cabinet Office and paymaster general under the 2010-15 coalition government, which brought him into contact with a succession of permanent secretaries.

      Covington, which works extensively in Europe, employs more than 120 former government officials, diplomats and regulators. It does not disclose any clients on the UK’s statutory lobbying registers.

      Maude has also has taken up a role as chairman of the advertising agency Cogent Elliott, months after accepting a job on the advisory board at the alternative investment firm Anvest Partners.

      His roles have been approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) as long as he does not personally lobby ministers or officials for two years after leaving office or draw on privileged information. He is at liberty to advise others on how to do so, however.

      A spokesperson for Covington denied that Maude had taken up a lobbying job. “Francis Maude is not a lobbyist but a strategic adviser, who will be assisting the firm and its clients as they navigate complexities around Brexit,” she said.

      Covington is one of a number of firms advising clients on the consequences of the leave vote in June.

      The lobbying firm Interel, which employs Liam Fox’s former special adviser Oli Waghorn, promises to help clients to “shape the post-Brexit regulatory and business environment”.

      Hanover, run by John Major’s former press secretary Charles Lewington, has established a business advisory team to help clients navigate Brexit in order to “protect your bottom line”.

      Last month it emerged that the former foreign secretary William Hague had been appointed to the “Brexit client transition unit” at the consultancy Teneo, whose clients include HSBC, Coca-Cola and Nissan.

      Meanwhile, MPs were warned on Tuesday that the revolving door of ministers and senior civil servants taking senior jobs in the private sector was now so prevalent that the boundary between the regulator and regulated had dissolved.

      Alexandra Runswick, director of the campaign group Unlock Democracy said the volume of people moving from senior roles in Whitehall to the private sector had significantly increased.

      “Calling it a revolving door is almost too gentle a metaphor. It is more of a stampede,” she told MPs.

      A new code of conduct has been proposed, under which MPs would be forced to drop lucrative outside jobs if they conflict with their jobs serving their constituents.

      The change in the rules – which are still to be approved by MPs – would radically cut back the amount of time MPs would be allowed to spend away from their constituents.

      The draft code has been signed off by members of the House of Commons standards committee before a six-week consultation.

      Tamasin Cave, of the campaign group Spinwatch, said there was a steady stream of ex-ministers walking straight into companies that then used their insider knowledge and connections.


    A Conservative-run county council has signalled it is close to effective bankruptcy after admitting that “severe financial challenges” mean it is unable to meet its financial obligations in the current year.

    Northamptonshire county council issued a section 114 notice on Friday afternoon imposing financial controls and banning expenditure on all services except for its statutory obligations to safeguard vulnerable people.

    A section 114 notice is effectively an admission that a council does not have resources to meet current expenditure, that its financial reserves are depleted and that it has little confidence that it can bring spending under control in the near future. It is understood Northamptonshire is the first local authority to issue a section 114 notice for two decades.

    The news comes weeks after the Local Government Association (LGA) warned that years of shrinking budgets, coupled with increased pressure on social care and child protection services, would leave many councils “close to the edge”. The LGA estimates that councils in England face an overall funding gap of £5.8bn by 2020.

    Although councils cannot technically go bankrupt, a section 114 may force central government to intervene to ensure that local services are sustainable.

    The council said: “The notice has been served in light of the severe financial challenge facing the authority and the significant risk that it will not be in a position to deliver a balanced budget by the end of the year.

    “Councillors have 21 days to discuss the implications of the section 114 notice and this is due to be addressed at the full council meeting on 22 February. The notice does not affect staff pay and the council will continue to meet its statutory functions.”

    Northamptonshire revealed in December that it would increase council tax by 5% in 2018-19 while cutting its spending by £34m. Councillors said this was necessary to meet soaring demand for services at a time when central funding was being slashed. .

    It is understood that the council is facing a £10m overspend on its budget this year, mainly driven by rising demand in adult social care services. The financial situation has been exacerbated by forecasts that £27m of hoped-for savings this year have failed to materialise.

    Andrew Gwynne, the shadow secretary of state for communities and local government, said: “The failure of this Tory-run council shows that their approach to managing our public services doesn’t work.

    “There have been deeply worrying reports for a number of months that this council was failing in its duty to the people of Northamptonshire – and now these people will pay the price for this negligence.”

    An independent investigation into alleged financial and governance failings at the council was announced by the communities and local government secretary, Sajid Javid, last month.

    A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “It would not be appropriate for us to comment while the inspection is ongoing.”

    The county council leader, Heather Smith, had welcomed the inspection and said it was an opportunity to make clear to ministers that the recent funding settlement for local authorities was inadequate.

    She said: “We have been fully open and transparent with the government about our situation and have been direct in our request for assistance. We have also been clear that our proposed funding settlement from them includes no recognition of the pressures we face with the escalating cost of, and demand for, adult social care and children’s services respectively.”

    Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, told the BBC that Northamptonshire’s move was highly unusual and said it was the first section 114 notice for two decades.

    Last month the council said it was considering selling its new £53m headquarters, which were officially opened last October.

  3. If they knew they were in financial difficulty why on earth did they spend 53 million on a new HQ that they are now thinking of selling? There needs to be more public accountability for some of the decisions and huge waste of public money in local government as well as outsourced public services. I do fear that if this is happening here the problem will soon surface in.other local authorities. It is possible that services will be stripped right back to statutory services only and the loss of many preventative and support services. This will then impact on the statutory services as they become overwhelmed. I have moved out of CRC and back into local authority and this is something I fear will happen. It feels as if the noose will begin to tighten for sure and recent news of savings that need to be made. If they need to be made I just hope the decision will be made sensibly and staff will be consulted.

    1. I note the Tannis case has raised its head once again this week, and concerns about the privatisation of probation are being raised once.
      I note too that Working links have not yet been inspected, but I feel certain that once an inspection report is made public there will be further questions raised.


    2. Tanis Bhandari would still be alive today had there not been shocking failings in the way his killer was monitored, according to one Plymouth councillor.

      Philippa Davey launched an impassioned speech on the case at Monday's Plymouth City Council meeting, slamming the privatisation of the probation service which was supposed to be monitoring Donald Pemberton at the time he and Ryan Williams murdered Plymouth builder Tanis in Tamerton Foliot on New Year's Day 2015.

      And she praised Tanis' family and The Herald for their work in exposing the errors, which are now due to be scrutinised in Parliament.

      Cllr Davey said: "A licence that stated he (Pemberton) had to be well behaved and not commit any offence. A breach of this licence could result in a recall to prison.

      "Thanks to the perseverance of Tanis's family and the Plymouth Herald reporter Carl Eve, serious failings in the criminal justice system have been revealed.

      "Failings that should not have happened, could have been avoided and have still not been resolved.

      "Failings that pose a risk to the public in Plymouth and across the UK. It is a great shame that our MPs have failed to act immediately and it has taken a journalist, a grieving family and councillors to ensure action is taken to protect our residents."

      Cllr Davey said Tanis' family had also been badly let down by the Ministry of Justice, Witness Care and Working Links Community Rehabilitation Company.

      She said: "The failure to advise them of their rights to the 'victim summary report' of the Serious Further Offence Review is just the start of a series of events which is, frankly, an insult to a grieving family seeking transparency and truth.

      "The review of Working Links supervision of Pemberton was completed by another Working Links manager in the Bristol, Avon, Somerset and Gloucestershire area.

      "A private company, investigating itself –what could go wrong?

      "Well, let me tell you. The family were not made aware of their rights to see the victim summary report, Pemberton had been arrested on December 15th and there was CCTV showing him brandishing meat cleavers in public. On December 22nd, a week later, the probation officer received a report from Pemberton's mental health worker, on the 23rd she spoke to the mental health worker and learned of his arrest and that he had been bailed, she prepared a summons to court which would be heard on January 16th regarding the breach of licence.

    3. "The report stated that although the probation officer (PO) was newly appointed to the role they had worked for several years in probation in another role. This is where the facts end and the glaring errors and omissions start.

      "Working Links will not provide the evidence of the PO's experience, they have confirmed they did not receive the expected training, training that Working Links themselves expect staff to complete.

      "Worse, there is no formal record of any risk assessment or risk management plan, no evidence of inter agency working, including information sharing with the police public protection unit and all of this should have been good working practice.

      "A deterioration in Pemberton's state of mental health should have rung alarm bells, for both his safety and that of the public.

      "A risk assessment should have been completed on his deteriorating mental health and his behaviour on the night of the 15th December.

      "His risk was rising, his behaviour was escalating and he could have been recalled, subject to curfew or electronic tag and Tanis's murder may have been prevented. Pemberton could have received the treatment he needed.

      "But worse was to come.

      "Tanis's family were contacted by Devon and Cornwall Police and received a detailed report which revealed a worrying gap in the computer systems police rely on, not just in Devon and Cornwall, but across the whole of England and Wales.

      "Pemberton was released from Portland YOI [Young Offenders Institution] and no one had sent a copy of his licence to be entered on the Police National Computer.

      "Apparently only cases serious enough for MAPPA [Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements], POP [Prolific Offenders Project] offenders or those on HDC [Home Detention Curfew] go automatically to the Bureau. The police could not access a copy of Pemberton's licence.

      "The report also revealed the probation officer has been contacted by Pemberton's doctor on November 21 who had seen Pemberton 'who said he was paranoid and afraid of his father and was now keeping an axe under his bed'.

      "The supervising officer called police as she was advised action under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act was required. After calling both 101 and 999 she was told he wasn't currently a risk.

      "The report notes how inexperienced the officer was and that she had never been informed by the custody unit of anyone on supervision being arrested, usually finding out from CPS when they went to court.

      "Although the report does not make a causal link between the failures and Tanis's murder it does note that if the licence had been available it is likely he would have remained in custody and been recalled to prison. He would not have been at liberty and Tanis could still be alive today.

      "Another shocking revelation was that Devon and Cornwall Police computer system, does not extract a suspect's Custody History screen, meaning custody officers 'would not see any licence details held on a prisoner in custody as the data would not be available via the interface'.

      "The same system is used by all forces so affects every member of the public.

      "This should be rectified immediately as it is the custody officer who will make a decision on release.

      "Finally, and again terrifyingly, affecting the whole of the UK, the failure to record all licence conditions on the PNC has meant that in a dip sample four out of 11 offenders have no licence recorded on PNC.

      "That included sex offenders but could include a wide range of offenders.

      "The police's internal report concluded there was 'every chance incidents similar to this case will recur' if no changes were made to current processes. This is where we have to act and to ask our MP's to act, now.

    4. "This should be rectified immediately as it is the custody officer who will make a decision on release.

      "Finally, and again terrifyingly, affecting the whole of the UK, the failure to record all licence conditions on the PNC has meant that in a dip sample four out of 11 offenders have no licence recorded on PNC.

      "That included sex offenders but could include a wide range of offenders.

      "The police's internal report concluded there was 'every chance incidents similar to this case will recur' if no changes were made to current processes. This is where we have to act and to ask our MP's to act, now.

      "In June 2014 you heard NAPO and other experts warn that the privatisation of probation would cause fragmentation of services, lead to unqualified and inexperienced staff supervising complex and risky offenders, put inter agency working at risk and would not improve re offending rates and would put the public at risk.

      "The recent inspections of CRC's in London, Durham and Stoke show clearly that the public is at greater risk, offending has not reduced and targets are being missed. Working Links are yet to have an inspection but trying to shed hundreds of jobs, wanting to change their operational model which will dumb down the PO role, having staff off sick, stressed and demotivated does not bode well."

      Cllr Davey urged members to vote for her motion, tabled on January 23, regarding concerns over the privatisation of the Probation Service and the findings of the Serious Further Offence review and the police's internal report, and to 'heed the warnings from 2014 and the two investigations into what could have been an avoidable loss of life'.

      She said: "To ensure Tanis's family receive the truth they are entitled to and the public who we represent are protected from harm wherever possible.

      "We have a duty and the ability to make sure that Safer Plymouth really does make Plymouth Safer and that all of our partners are doing all they can to achieve this. We can ensure this happens. It is in our power."

      Her voice was joined by Labour's Southway ward councillor Jonny Morris who said: "It's important that the council publicly recognises the dignity and determination with which Tanis' family have pursued their cause.

      "While their determination faced with such horrific events might be somewhat expected, their dignity goes beyond what could be expected."

      Conservative Budshead ward councillor, Dave Downie, also spoke out in support of the motion.

      He said: "It's obvious there have been a series of systemic errors on a national level which have had tragic consequences locally.

      "I am more than happy to support this motion."

      The motion was voted through unanimously by council members.

      As he promised earlier this year, Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer has raised the concerns posed by the police investigation into the death of Tanis Bhandari in a written question to Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Justice.

      On January 27 he asked: "What assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the findings of the Devon and Cornwall Police inquiry into the murder of Tanis Bhandari that omissions in the recording of license conditions on the Police National Computer are likely to recur."

      Mr Mercer's office said they expect an answer from the Justice Minister within the next few days.

      A spokesman for the MP said: "Johnny and his office continue to work with the family of Tanis Bhandari for their best outcome.

      "He will continue to work with them to seek the publication of the Serious Further Offence Review, pending which he will seek a meeting the Minister responsible for probation with representatives of Tanis' family.

      "The primary focus for Johnny in this is to ensure that the family of Tanis Bhandari receive the answers they are seeking, as it would be for any of his constituents.

    5. It's an excuse to raise council tax. All LAs are wanting a significant raise, some as much as 6‰.

    6. The report stated that although the probation officer (PO) was newly appointed to the role they had worked for several years in probation in another role. This is where the facts end and the glaring errors and omissions start.

      The facts are well known though it is that none of the team including the managers were actually Probation Officers who are properly qualified at all.

      "Working Links will not provide the evidence of the PO's experience, they have confirmed they did not receive the expected training, training that Working Links themselves expect staff to complete.
      It is also known that Working Links Have no training plan to provide any appropriate skills to any staff . It is clear on this blog of the well known public national dispute that the unions have raised for the dangerous practices of Working Links. There are many sign posts and the situation is deteriorating.
      Johnny Mercer Visited the office in January and has been duped into thinking its rosy. It is not !

  4. Renationalisation of public services is the right thing to do. The public purse has been mortally wounded by privatisation outsourcing and government incompetence.
    But renationalisation is no small task. Privatisation has happened at an alarming rate, and often unseen by processes of subcontracting or mergers.
    Virgin Care has been in the news lately, but it's surprising just how many private companies are leaching from the NHS.

    1. Who are the NHS privateers?

      Virgin Care leads the way in negating the founding principles of the NHS whilst claiming to promote the greatest good. – So I will start with them.

      Over the past seven years they have been awarded NHS contracts worth over £2 billion. By this year, they were running over 400 NHS services.

      Virgin Care has two arms to its business in the NHS: primary care services, including GP services and community-based NHS services.

      In January 2018 Virgin Care Private was launched, opening its first health and wellbeing centre in Birmingham.This centre provides GP services, specialist consultations, diagnostics and tests on a pay-as-you-go service.

      The company targets large contracts containing numerous services in the area of community health and social care. Since 2012 they have won these contracts in over seven UK regions.

      When Virgin Care has failed to win contacts it has resorted to legal action. The full amount paid to date to Virgin by you and me as taxpayers could be as high as £2.6 million.

      Labour MP Paula Sherriff, revealed that when she worked for Virgin Care the company insisted on “extra consultations before surgery, boosting their profits at the expense of the taxpayer and patient safety”.

      The parent company, Virgin Group Holdings Ltd, is registered in the British Virgin Islands. Richard Branson and his family hold a £2.7 billion stake in this offshore, tax-free, tax-haven company.

      But Virgin is just the tip of the scalpel…

      NHS Support Federation, reveals that profit-driven companies such as Bupa, Virgin Care and Care UK have since 2013 won more than 130 NHS service contracts worth £2.6bn to provide NHS services.

    2. Dr Mark Porter, of the British Medical Association, said:

      “These figures show the extent of privatisation in the NHS following the pushing through of the Health and Social Care Act. – An act that the government denied loud and long would lead to privatisation, has done exactly that.

      Enforcing competition has not only fragmented services and compromised the delivery of high-quality care, but it is also diverting vital funding away from frontline services to costly, complicated tendering processes, highlighting just how counterproductive the reorganisation has been.”

      At the beginning of 2017 private-sector companies had been invited to bid for 14% more NHS contracts than a year previously.

      According to the Department of Health accounts, the private sector delivered a total of £8.7bn of NHS services for 2015/16, or around 7.6 per cent of the total NHS budget.

      These figures exclude general practice, dentistry and community pharmacy, which can also be delivered by the private sector.

      David Hare, chief executive of the Partners Network, which represents private sector providers, said there was a slow “evolutionary trajectory” of greater private sector involvement in the NHS.

    3. So who, alongside Richard Branson and his family, are a part of this trajectory?
      There may be others, but these are the ‘privateers’ I have discovered.

      - Alliance / Lodestone – Diagnostics for the NHS and independent sector
      - BDO – Commissioning services for the NHS
      - BMI – You can now choose to have your NHS treatment at a BMI Healthcare hospital
      - BUPA, the biggest private healthcare company which takes your money and then depends on the NHS to carry out expensive treatments.
      - Capio, free family practice services if registered with them.
      - Capita, IT, patient engagement, HR, payroll, estates, commissioning services
      - Cap Gemine, programme management and specialist technical expertise for the NHS
      - Care UK, Day care and homes for elderly. GP services, diagnostics, CATS, treatment centres, mental health services learning disability services. Annual income per year from the NHS of over £350 million.
      - Centene, IT, digital technologies for NHS.
      - Circle UK, Circle targets large community care contracts and is the first private company to run an NHS hospital – Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire.
      - Classic Care, homecare services.
      - Diaverum UK Ltd, kidney services in partnership with the NHS.
      - Exel Europe Ltd, consumer procurables acquired for NHS.
      - Gemini, IT support for NHS
      - General Healthcare, a private specialist in fertility treatment.
      - HCA International supports private company participation in NHS services. Through US companies Tenet Healthcare and Aspen Healthcare they provide “increasing opportunities to work with and support the National Health Service”.
      - IBM provides electronic staff records services to the NHS, payroll, pensions and other human resources functions. IBM’s service covers 1.4m employees at the NHS.
      - InHealth Group, diagnostics for NHS throughout the UK
      - McKesson, IT support
      - Mouchel, Commissioning services.
      - Nector Primecare, Home care, care homes, mental health services, children’s services, out-of-hours, dentistry and primary care.
      - Netcare, a network of clinics set up in 2002 in the UK by South African company, which works under contract to the NHS.
      - Optimum, part of of US United Health Group which works with the NHS to provide services such as contract negotiations and medication management.
      - Partnership in Care, Largest independent provider of secure mental health facilities across the UK working with the NHS.
      - Pathology First LLP and Facilities First LLP, providing pathology services to NHS Foundation Trusts.
      - The Practice, 75% owned by US company Centene, providing primary care services and specialist clinical services to GPs.
      - Priory Group, Provider of acute mental health care, specialist education, complex care and neuro-rehabilitation services, fostering and care homes.
      - Ramsay, UK has a network of 22 acute hospitals in the UK delivering both private treatment and care under contract to the NHS.
      - Spite Classic, Second largest private healthcare hospital group in the UK with 37 hospitals, with NHS admissions accounting for 25% of its business.
      - Totally PLC, working with the NHS with out of hospital care, including physiotherapy, podiatry, dermatology, referral management services and clinical health coaching.
      - United Health/Optum, Health needs assessment, GP Commissioning, performance & contract management, Medicines management.

      As over 68,000 people demand Richard Branson hands back NHS money… He lands £104m NHS contract

      When Virgin Care did not win the healthcare contracts they wanted they sued the cash-strapped NHS for £328,000. And yet despite that, they have been awarded another NHS contract. For £104 million.


    1. Long before the collapse last month of Carillion, one of the government’s go-to outsourcing and building groups, the signs of strain inside Whitehall over the future of financing public projects with private cash were clear. Since 2010 the government has signed 80 contracts under the private finance initiative (PFI). In the 13 years before 2010 it signed 620.

      The figures are a measure of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s enthusiasm for shaking up the way public sector bodies financed the building of schools, hospitals and prisons, and the reluctance of the coalition government to keep the programme on anything more than life support.

      In 2012, the then chancellor, George Osborne, backed a review of the controversial scheme, and in 2016, Osborne’s Tory successor Philip Hammond concluded there was still plenty of mileage in it. He relaunched it as you might a Hollywood film, calling it PF2.

      Except that PFI was by then a much-discredited formula. It might have raised £60bn over the years for building schools and hospitals, but the contracts were infamous for allowing businesses such as Carillion, which managed hundreds of public-sector projects as well as vital public services, to make excessive profits. It was a flop.

      Only the Department for Transport was keen to embrace the lamely rebadged programme: over the coming months it expects to put together deals to fund a re-routing of the A303 that runs past Stonehenge and the Lower Thames crossing in Essex.

      Other departments turned away. For most ministers and top civil servants PFI was toxic and the rebranding, which committed private bidders to provide greater transparency, was not enough to make it palatable. Tony Travers, a professor at the London School of Economics and a renowned expert on the public sector, says: “This is the denouement of a long drama.”

      That’s not to say contracting out and public-private partnerships have bitten the dust. They are still very much in the government’s thinking as ministers wrestle with another 10 years of tough spending reviews.

    2. How much does it cost Carillion to change a light bulb?

    3. FAILURE: Higher-ups at Carillion were taking massive bonuses while staff were unsure about jobs

      The company, which went bust last month, billed one hospital £70 to swap a bulb. Carillion is also said to have charged £20 to refill a single hand sanitiser or soap dispenser on a hospital ward. Some big hospitals have up to 50 wards, each with up to 70 dispensers. As a result they would have paid around £3.64million a year to have the dispensers filled once a week.

      Up to 14 hospital trusts are known to have had contracts with Carillion, under which the company was responsible for cleaning, maintenance and catering services.

      DISGRACE: Carillion charged £20 to replace each hand soap dispenser, a job costing £1
      “This is money which could be spent on operations, staff and reducing waiting times”

      NHS Insider

      Details of costs were revealed by an anonymous hospital manager in a letter published on the website NHS Newsday. He wrote: "Two examples of what happens with Carillion sub-contracts in hospitals which landed on my lap this week. Firstly, in one hospital the contractor for the lighting are the only people allowed to change light bulbs. The cost charged to the hospital was £70.

      "The cost of the light bulb is no more than £5 and the time it takes is around five minutes, so the employee is being paid £10 an hour and the labour charge would be 80p. That means the cost of this is £5.80. What is the £64.20 paying for? In another example the only people allowed to replenish the hand wash (onwards) are the contractors. Some wards may have 70 such dispensers as infection prevention is very important. It would take less than an hour to replenish every dispenser on a ward and the handwash costs around a pound, so £10 labour and £70 for the sanitiser - £80 in total. Contractor invoices £20 per dispenser. That is a total of £1,400. Where does the £1,330 go?"

      An NHS insider said: "This is money which could be spent on operations, staff and reducing waiting times. Instead it was being used to line the pockets of a group of fat cats making money out of the NHS."

      Business Secretary Greg Clark yesterday announced contractors hit by the firm's collapse can apply for Government-backed loans under a £100m support scheme.

  6. Anyone ever heard of Justin Russell? He's the DG with responsibility for the Probation review, amongst other things. He seems to have had a hand in a series of the more unpalatable right-wing policies, e.g. increasing the pension age, Universal Credit & the PIP scheme, notable for recently deemed to be unlawfully discriminatory against those it was presumably intended to help, i.e. those with disabilities. As such he'll be very well versed in handing public funds to privateers such as Atos & Capita.

    Biography (from MoJ website):

    Justin joined MOJ on 17 October 2016. He is Director General for prison, offender and youth justice policy and SRO for the Prison Safety and Reform Programme. He started his career as a social researcher in the Home Office and has worked on a wide range of criminal justice issues including as a Senior Policy Adviser on home affairs in the No10 Policy Unit and as Head of the Violent Crime Unit in the Home Office where he led the Ending Gang and Youth Violence Programme and the government’s strategy on ending violence against women and girls. From 2012 to 2016 he was a Director at the Department for Work and Pensions where he led the production of the 2013 White Paper on state pension reform and was the SRO for the Employment and Support Allowance reform programme and Director for disability employment and support.

    The responsibilities of the group led by the Director General - Prisons, Offender and Youth Justice Policy are:

    Prisons policy
    Prison interventions
    The Prison Reform and Safety Programme
    Youth Justice Reform
    Foreign national offenders
    The Lammy review into BAME offenders
    ALB sponsorship
    Youth Justice
    Probation review
    Female offenders

  7. Another of Grayling's fine legacies that will cost the taxpayer dearly, quietly unannounced on the MoJ website:

    "Power of attorney fee refund scheme launched

    All those eligible for a partial refund on their power of attorney fees can apply from today (1 February 2018).

    The refunds are being offered to those who may have been charged more than was necessary to apply to register lasting or enduring powers of attorney between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2017.

    During this period, the Office of the Public Guardian’s (OPG) operating costs came down as more people applied to register a power of attorney and the process became more efficient, but the application fee charged was not reduced in line with this.

    The Ministry of Justice, which sets OPG’s fees, reduced the application fee with effect from 1 April 2017, and has now launched a refund scheme for those who paid a higher fee in the qualifying period. The scheme will be run by OPG."

  8. People may have seen Richard Heaton in action alongside Spurr in Committee the other week. His MoJ job profile reads as follows, but he didn't seem too familiar with his job description when he was before the PAC:

    Permanent Secretary

    The role of Permanent Secretary carries with it the responsibility of Principal Accounting Officer, ensuring that the resources authorised by Parliament are used for the purposes authorised by Parliament.

    Other responsibilities include:

    - agreeing with the Secretary of State the overarching strategy for delivering Ministerial objectives
    - leading, and managing the Ministry to ensure that it operates as effectively and efficiently as possible
    - reporting to the Justice Secretary and to Parliament on overall performance

    His biography states:

    Richard Heaton has been Permanent Secretary for MOJ since August 2015. Before that he was Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office (from August 2012).

    Richard started his career as a barrister, and joined the Home Office as a legal adviser in 1991. He then worked in legal teams across government, focussing particularly on criminal law, the constitution, and human rights law.

    His recent legal and non-legal posts have been:

    * Director of legal services at Department for Constitutional Affairs (now Ministry of Justice)
    * Head of law and governance at Department for Work and Pensions
    * Director General for pensions and ageing society, Department for Work and Pensions

    He was also First Parliamentary Counsel from 2012 to 2015.

  9. What happened to you Bionic btw? Have you been silenced yet?

  10. All these questions and enquiries and no one has been held to account. I have made this statement before "they are all in it together" and together they will stay and cover up shit for each other and the contracts will keep coming win win for them. If things go wrong just liquidate and set up another company.

    1. Private probation fails to cut reoffending and is an embarrassment for the government.


  11. The Times reports that Michael Spurr is facing the sack because of safety concerns in prisons.
    Better he keeps his bonus though.


    The head of the Prison Service faces being sacked as members of a parliamentary watchdog responsible for scrutinising jail conditions reveal his position is “hanging by a thread”.

    Michael Spurr was criticised for his “lack of leadership” by the justice select committee after last week’s murder of Khader Ahmed Saleh, a drug dealer, at Wormwood Scrubs prison, west London.

    Spurr was warned last September by Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, that Wormwood Scrubs was “still not safe enough, with high levels of often serious violence”. Last month Spurr admitted a “personal failing” over the state of a prison in Liverpool

  12. A prescient Blog posted on Friday 28 January 2011. Hope you don't mind me being cheeky & re-posting the essence of it Mr Brown?

    "On Tuesday this week the prisons and probation minister Crispin Blunt made a major speech to a conference organised by the Social Market Foundation on the coalition governments plans for the so-called rehabilitation revolution. The centrepiece of this vision is the desire to see voluntary, private and social sector players enter the field and bid for work. I have this vision of a room full of company fatcats, sorry putative bidders absolutely hanging on his every word and salivating at the mere thought of lucrative government contracts in the offing. At the nub of the plan is the great new idea 'Payment by Results':

    "There has also been far too much prescription from the centre with providers not being held to account for their outcomes. It could be characterised as a ‘command and control’ approach to running public services. The results of this are predictable: large sums spent; constrained professionals; insufficient return; a lot of time spent on processes; little time spent on outcomes.

    Payment by results by contrast does exactly the opposite. The commissioner specifies a goal and increasingly pays for what gets delivered against this benchmark. Because we will allow providers discretion in how they manage individual offenders – that’s up to them – they are free to innovate. But they know they will be held to account for their performance against the outcomes that they achieve. So they have strong incentives to do what works. It’s a much more decentralised and flexible approach. Ultimately too, it is a potentially market-based one as different kinds of organisation start offering services – be it public, independent or third sector. We are excited about payment by results because we believe that it represents an excellent way of helping to drive up standards, reduce reoffending and improve value for money for the taxpayer.

    Of course we are aware of the technical and organisational challenges in developing payment by results. We need to find the best way to measure reductions in reoffending levels. It is essential that providers are only paid for results directly attributable to their work. Hence in Peterborough we will rigorously analyse their performance using independently assessed control groups and reoffending of other similar offenders, being careful to ensure that we can identify the effects of the interventions on the offenders with which they work."

    Mr Blunt puts his finger very neatly on what the last government did to the probation service - removed all innovation and variety and substituted uniformity and a command and control structure. So far so good as he thinks that's now a bad idea. Step forward new idea, Payment by Results. Now I am already on record as saying we have to give the idea a go for the simple reason it can be funded primarily from sources other than the public purse and the government says there is no other game in town. Whether it will work or not is another matter...

    1. ... Of course probation officers are well placed to say that in all probability it won't, but it will be made to work for political and economic reasons. The figures will have to be 'fiddled' because we know there are no magic bullets or quick fixes in tackling re-offending - it might take several or many attempts before change in a persons behaviour occurs and even then it might just be because of the natural maturing process, or something outwith any agencies control like getting a girlfriend.

      All this will be of more than just academic interest under a Payment by Results system because the credit for the outcome will have to be claimed by one agency or other in order to receive payment. As the minister says, 'It is essential that providers are only paid for results directly attributable to their work.' Heaven forfend if an agency gets paid wrongly. Yes of course it's barmy, but there we have just one of the irritating little problems associated with this great new idea. Maybe there will have to be an evaluation and appeal process to determine who gets the credit for Darren or Craig stopping their crime wave?

      The other problem with this idea is that the government will want to prove it works. This will be relatively easy with the Peterborough experiment because no work was being done with prisoners serving 12 months or less any way. But it will get a bit more difficult with other core probation work and the figures may will need some careful management shall we say. After the passage of a suitable period of time, no doubt some providers will be deemed to be failing and so get removed. The problem will be, were they failing or were they just not very good with figures?

      Sadly I feel this idea is going to have to run its course before we can return to a more sensible approach of having a state funded public service, not paid on the basis of spurious results, but rather paid to provide a flexible, innovative and client-centred professional service. Now there's a really novel idea."

    2. After this impressive perfomance I think we can now expect some lottery number predictions please, viz-:

      * I have this vision of a room full of company fatcats...salivating at the mere thought of lucrative government contracts in the offing.

      * ...probation officers are well placed to say that in all probability it [PbR] won't [work], but it will be made to work for political and economic reasons.

      * The figures will have to be 'fiddled' because we know there are no magic bullets or quick fixes in tackling re-offending...

      * The other problem with this idea is that the government will want to prove it works. This will be relatively easy with the Peterborough experiment...

      * After the passage of a suitable period of time, no doubt some providers will be deemed to be failing and so get removed.

    3. Anon 11:05 Thanks for the reminder, especially how lazy I've got of late in just re-publishing stuff - I really must try and get back into the habit of finding time for writing - something I've always enjoyed and if still around, would no doubt come as a surprise to my long-suffering Secondary Modern School english teacher.