Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Time To Admit Failure

We know probation is completely broken, Friday's Select Committee report admirably confirmed that. The CRCs are losing money, wanting out of the contracts as soon as possible and the MoJ is desperately searching for an answer that sorts things out, but avoids the political embarrassment of having to admit TR has been an unmitigated disaster. 

But it's not as if government's haven't been here before with total disasters that have cost the public purse vast sums and resulted in just tearing the plans up, admitting the failure and starting all over again. We did it with FiReControl, Individual Learning Accounts, Child Support Agency and the UK Border Agency, to name a few of the more recent examples.   

What's the problem in just adding probation to the list? 'It's been a disaster, we got it wrong, tear the plan up and start again.' Maybe the problem is not the avoidance of political embarrassment, it's the problem of finding an alternative. Despite the evidence, clearly David Lidington and the government still thinks it's privatisation. This is what he said yesterday as reported on the Public Finance website:-

Outsourcing here to stay, says Cabinet Office minister Lidington

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to outsourcing, at a speech to the Reform think-tank this morning.

The MP for Aylesbury told his audience in London that public services “can be provided more efficiently at lower cost and at better value” by involving the private sector. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he has also revealed today the government is to introduce new rules for companies working on public contracts. This will mean companies working with the public sector will be required to publish data showing how taxpayers’ money is being spent, how they are addressing the gender pay gap and improving ethnic minority representation.

Lidington told the Reform event this morning: “Governments of all colours have done outsourcing because the benefits of outsourcing are clear. What matters is that the service works for the people who use them while providing value for money.”

He admitted that there was a need for “more diversified markets” with outsourcing in the UK and explained how the government wants more charities, social enterprises and mutuals to bid for public services contracts. He also said the new outsourcing rules would extend the requirements of the 2013 Social Value Act, which requires commissioners of public services to think about how they secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits through contracting.

“We will develop proposals for government’s biggest suppliers to provide action plans for how they plan to address key social issues and disparities. We will extend the requirements of the Social Value Act so that contracts are awarded on the basis of more than just value for money – but a company's values too.”

Carillion – the outsourcing and construction company that collapsed in January – “reminds us that it is real people who suffer when things go wrong”, Lidington said. “It is the duty of all of us to build a fairer society.” He said that if a private sector company failed it was that private company “who should bear the brunt”.


So, whilst Lidington continues to try and tell us that privatisation works despite all the mounting evidence to the contrary and we know from the Times leak that the MoJ thinks bigger contracts is the answer, the big privateers are already crying foul. This from the FT:- 

Outsourcers are facing their own financial crisis

You know it’s a worrying time in your industry when the boss of one of the biggest companies draws explicit parallels between current events and what happened to the banks in 2008. 
Last week, Rupert Soames did just that, bemoaning the share-price collapse that has swept through the outsourcing sector — hitting companies that provide contracted services, often to public bodies. 

“Not long ago, Capita’s share price was over £10; it is now £1.50; Serco, now £1 was not long ago over £3; Interserve used to trade at over £6, and is now around 70p,” the chief executive of Serco said. The falls, he observed, had affected all the main outsourcing companies, wiping nearly £10bn from their collective market capitalisation. “These are destructions of a sector’s value not seen since the global financial crisis,” Mr Soames added. 

Serco’s boss may have had in mind just stock prices when he made the comparison. But in some ways outsourcing businesses are rather closer to financial groups than they or perhaps their shareholders think. Take for instance Carillion’s dramatic failure in January, which occurred after the company announced £1.2bn of writedowns on a series of construction and outsourcing deals in the previous summer. Instead of making a profit on these long-term contracts, it revealed a loss that would wipe out the previous six years of group profits. 

When an outsourcing business writes down the value of contracts, it is rather like a bank writing down a book of loans. If the decline in anticipated revenues is big enough, it can trigger a run where the spooked lenders demand their capital back. As contracts are not easy to sell at short notice, that leaves shareholders as the backstop provider of liquidity. If they say no, as Carillion’s did, and the government won’t provide a bailout (as it shouldn’t), the business can be toast. 

Carillion isn’t the only large outsourcing company to flirt with this sort of disaster. Interserve recently had to be reprieved by its lenders, while the UK’s biggest outsourcer, Capita, needed a rescue rights issue when a string of duff acquisitions racked up losses.

At the root of it all is a growing wodge of mispriced contracts. The industry relies for much of its business on public sector bodies and these, unsurprisingly, have grasped the power that being a monopsony buyer gives them. Mr Soames grumbles they have used their muscle to impose conditions “which are iniquitous and unfair”, such as a “Not our Fault Guv” clause, which says the customer is not responsible if the information upon which contracts are priced proves subsequently to be erroneous. 

But another way of looking at this is that the companies have — like the banks pre-crisis — under-priced risk in their hunt for ever more contracts. Gone are the easy wins in so-called first-generation outsourcing deals — where it was possible to reduce the cost of some process by up to 30 per cent, allowing both the customer to be satisfied and the provider to earn fat margins. Second or third generation deals offer much thinner pickings, increasing the scope for bosses to get things wrong. 

This is also happening at a time when an accounting change is making contracts structurally less profitable in their early years, increasing the financing strain on new business — the outsourcer’s lifeblood. To show the scale of this effect, when Capita restated its 2016 accounts on the new basis, net current liabilities ballooned from £19m to £1.2bn. 

Slimmer margins and tougher conditions clearly pose risks for investors. But accounting doesn’t always make it easy to perceive this. Companies only impair contracts when they decide that the revenue they will receive over the balance of the term is less than the cost they will incur in providing the service. Then they crystallise the difference. So the first investors may know is when they take a very big hit. 

Given these dynamics, and the career-shortening possibilities of impairment, it would be surprising if bosses didn’t defer the inevitable, rather in the way that many defer goodwill impairments on past, failed acquisitions. (Capita had goodwill equivalent to 4.5 times its net assets before its writedown). Yet this can lead to a sea of red ink when the dam finally bursts. 

There is a public as well as private interest in sustaining outsourced services — many of which are essential to the public. Mr Soames would like to see the customers behave more leniently. But in the meantime, auditors need to scrutinise business models beadily, alive to spurious deferrals of impairments and imprudent capital payouts. Everything points to these companies needing much more equity capital, not less.


In a situation like this it would be good to see a strong and effective voice from within the probation world, but with only a couple of days left before the ballot for Napo General Secretary closes, the latest blog post would appear to be the best we can muster:-  

Writing definitely on the wall for TR says Justice Committee

It remains to be seen whether Friday 22nd June 2018 will be remembered in future years by those members who have suffered the impact of Transforming Rehabilitation as ‘Vindication Day’. A day which saw the publication of probably the most damning report of its kind by a parliamentary select committee into what is undoubtedly the most ill-conceived social experiment that I have ever seen.

The Justice Select Committee has left no stone unturned in its almost forensic analysis of Chris Grayling’s masterpiece of a disaster, and I intend to write personally to the Chair, Bob Neill, l to thank him and his colleague members for their work and the two opportunities afforded to me to provide verbal evidence. If you missed it before you can catch-up on what I said on Parliament TV

So what happens next?

The extensive media coverage that we played a major part in generating gave a fair wind to the JSC conclusions, which strongly mirrored the evidence that we and other stakeholders had submitted. But, the key recommendation that the MoJ must initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation, is the pathway to bringing about the reform that our members have been desperately seeking.

We knew already from contact with some CRC owners that they have been engaged in talks with the MoJ about the possibility of shortening contracts which itself was one of the sources for the speculation in the Times article.

This was also confirmed in an answer to Parliamentary question that was tabled last week through our friends in Union Services

The worst case for our members is that the Minister orders the shortening of CRC contracts and parcels up even bigger lots to sell off, but the JSC recommendation that any alternative must be properly planned and tested would seem to rule out merely repeating the same mistake in an enlarged landscape. This presupposes of course that any privateer would be willing to risk stepping into that landscape given the outcomes from the JSC report.

Our task now is to do what I said we would in the film we made as part of the Vigil for Justice, which is to seek to work with all political parties to find a way out of the TR shambles. It will also require us to firm up on our thinking over the summer Parliamentary recess so that we are in a good position to seek the input into the MoJ review that has been asked for by the JSC

Standing by our Members

We will also step up our engagement with CRC owners so that the interests of our CRC members are prioritised over the months ahead. I totally understand that while many of you will have taken great heart from the publication of the JSC report, there will be some who may be worried about what lies ahead. One thing is certain, Napo will stand by, and be there, for all members in the lead-in to what we all want to see: a reunified, publicly owned and desistance driven Probation Service. We have a lot of work ahead of us and at long last we have a big political steer to build on. Let’s do that in unity and the belief that one day we will prevail.


What is clear to me is that the Civil Service has been as bad for probation as the privateers have. The dead hand of bureaucratisation marches on with a whole new raft of meaningless acronyms, typically delivered with breathless enthusiasm, whilst the whole ethos is inexorably corrupted by Prison Service influence:-
"Fabulous day in a very sunny Scarborough with a wonderful NE BSC and HMPPS EQuiP Team coming up with ways to improve on Deployment of the new laptops and challenges back to National BSC SMT!"
Probation has no place as part of the Civil Service, just as much as it should have no future with private enterprise. Yes the two parts must be reunited, but a way must be found to create the right organisational vehicle and I suspect that means a QUANGO - a nationally organised but locally controlled quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation. If that sounds a bit like what we had before, we will just have to bite our lip and pretend it's exciting, innovative and new.  


  1. https://www.politico.eu/article/opinion-uk-government-must-rethink-outsourcing-of-public-services/

    1. With the collapse of Carillion, a succession of scandals involving large British companies like G4S, Serco and others, and the zig-zagging share price of outsourcing giant Capita, now is the right time to rethink the U.K. government’s approach to the private provision of public services.

      Is it really right that government is so reliant on a few players in markets like security services and facilities management? How did we reach such a level of market consolidation that has stifled innovation in public services, and created a climate of complacency among larger providers? Why have we not been able to diversify the market until now? What needs to change?

      Far from an academic exercise, the answers to these questions impact not only the cost of the state but the provision of many public services.

      Much government work, especially at local levels, is outsourced. The British government is quick to point out that the U.K. spends less on outsourcing than other European countries such as Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, but many services are today in the hands of private providers. Private companies maintain housing for soldiers, monitor offenders and help get the long-term unemployed into work. Failure to fix the problems of the market will directly impact the lives of huge numbers of citizens.

      It is easy to default to lazy stereotypes. Some on the left decry any form of outsourcing and would happily take everything — from prison guards to coffeemakers — back under direct public management. The right, on the other hand, implicitly trusts the private sector to be more efficient and is loathe to change any arrangements, not least for fear of recreating the sprawl of a state that Margaret Thatcher dismantled in the 1980s. Both solutions lead nowhere.

      Long-term investment aside, there is no evidence that the state can deliver the continuous efficiencies and ongoing innovation offered by private companies — indeed private outsourcing can be an extremely effective mechanism for delivering high-quality and affordable public services.

      But at the same time, problems from poorly conceived contracts can create cost increases that surpass the costs of in-house services, and if the oversight of the contracts is poor, government is vulnerable to corruption and profiteering. The scandal of G4S and Serco charging the U.K. Ministry of Justice for tagging offenders who were dead shows how bad things can get.

      The first step is to manage risk more smartly. Government cannot stop any firm — no matter how large — from being mismanaged and going bust. But they can limit their own exposure.

      Departments can stop giving long-term contracts to single suppliers via one-off competitions, which means that if and when companies fall over, the whole system falls over with it, and there is no alternative supplier ready to step in. Government could instead tend toward multicomponent, diverse “lots” for services, with multiple suppliers across the country, ongoing competitive pressures and dynamic contracts and pricing that changes to reflect new technologies and reductions in the costs of providing the service. Government can impose restrictions on the kind of financial gearing a public company that has large public contracts should be allowed if they want to keep the work.

    2. Second, government needs to be much more proactive in getting new players into the market, especially when it comes to technology-enabled services, such as offender management, for example. This has been tried in the past. Departments regularly contacted foreign suppliers and promised their bids would be looked at seriously. It has happened with transport, prisons and health care at various points over the last few decades. But the government inevitably defaulted to the existing suppliers, like Capita, Serco, Atos and G4S. This won’t do.

      Government should set a target for ensuring contracts in key sub-markets; for example electronic monitoring, facilities management and so on see at least a proportion of business going to a new entrant in the market. They should also make a rule never to allow an entire market to be outsourced to a handful of firms. For when those firms fail or struggle, government has no alternatives. Indeed, the Ministry of Justice is still spending millions on tagging offenders with G4S and Capita despite the tagging scandal because it has not actively welcomed in or competently procured new entrants in the market.

      It might even be worthwhile creating a kind of new measurement of public sector market concentration — a version of the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, the formula used to measure competitiveness of markets — but specifically tailored to government markets. Like the Bank of England’s inflation target, the government would make a commitment not to go above a certain threshold on this index and report to parliament if it does.

      Then the government should look within itself, as Cabinet Minister David Lidington said he would at a recent speech. It may not be smart to take over the range of outsourced services, but the reality is that many suppliers win contracts and deliver services by integrating different kinds of smaller suppliers and by hiring staff. Often the likes of KPMG and Capita bid for work before they actually have the capabilities to deliver the contracts. They then go and buy services and products from smaller firms.

      That kind of integration could be done by government-owned entities or a government-backed mutual, which could integrate the services of smaller firms at a lower cost to the taxpayer and greater benefit to the smaller companies actually delivering the products and services. Why not try that in one market?

      Then the government commercial function and systems needs to be re-thought. Though Conservative-led governments have undertaken a number of important reforms, bringing in private sector expertise, there is more work to be done. Today, the way that contracts are awarded and risks assessed militates against innovation and experimentation, locking out new entrants and startups.

      Government needs to be able to fund more pilots and crucially find an easier way to move from a pilot to a fuller contract. Like in Australia, we need to consider a system where innovators who propose a new solution that government then wants to adopt get a no-bid chance to at least pilot their solution. Nothing kills innovation as when a new player proposes a new solution and government takes the new idea and hands the delivery to a large incumbent.

      Finally, government purchasing needs to be more dynamic, more tailored — more, to be blunt, like it feels to buy on Amazon, eBay, Asos and Spock.

      Any government that says it wants to take on vested interests wherever they may be must look first at how it itself has created — and become reliant on — a select number of vested, incumbent suppliers. Choosing a large incumbent still currently feels safer than choosing a new player. As the saying goes, “nobody got fired for hiring IBM.”

      But that should not be the case. Outsourcing is necessary but urgent reform is needed for outsourcing to meet the needs of modern government.

      Daniel Korski was deputy head of the policy unit at No. 10 Downing Street and is the founder and CEO of Public, a venture that helps technology startups transform public services.

  2. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jun/26/trials-and-tribulations-my-life-as-a-criminal-barrister

  3. Well said - good Blog

    I also note via Twitter nothing constructive from the Labour Party Official opposition Front Bench - unless I have missed seeing it.

    Possibly another way forward might include letting the Welsh Assembly take on responsibility for NPS and the Welsh CRC there, maybe they can come up with something.

    I have also seen nothing constructive from the Voluntary Sector, Academics (The Bill McWilliams lecture is this week) or the PI, but I have very possibly missed something, hopefully others are more alert than me and will let us know what those Actors in Probation are saying definitively, if they are saying anything decisive and clear.

    1. More like nothing constructive from NPS and CRC’s. They’re all pretending it’s business as usual and that the Justice Committes ‘failing Grayling’ report doesn’t exist.

  4. Privatisation and outsourcing of public service has no social conscience, nor does it have any social obligations. It creates the perception that greed is actually an acceptable quality, and a legitimate route to success.
    In reality, the big outsourcing companies are just ambulance chasers on a wholesale scale, that will take any contract regardless if moral duty just as long as there's money to be made.
    It's a completely dirty business, and the debate is whether to blame the greedy privateers or the government for the state of public services today.
    I blame government.
    In respect of TR, I think the under 12mth group now pose a significant problem for the MoJ. Without TR these 40,000 people would not have the benefit of accessing probation services. The reality is however that there is no benefits for this group by being brought into the probation World. It's just an expensive illusion.
    But to take them back out of the equation would create uproar from all quarters. Taking services off 40,000 of societies most disadvantaged? Allowing 40,000 criminals to run wild without any supervision? What support is going to be offered instead? What about public safety?
    I dont for a moment think anything about TR is funny, but I do smile a little sometimes when I see the self inflicted mess that the government finds itself in through it ideological and short sighted policy decisions.


  5. The clue is in the title outsourcing public services. Dah they are public and therefore should be operated by the public. Unless you have a Tory party chums club and can make a pile of money parasites off the back of what should fund more public services.

  6. You would make more money betting on when the IT system are going to crash!

    If we ran a sweepstake I'd bet on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday....

  7. https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/police-under-westminster-spotlight-over-14829905

    1. BBC news.

      The probation system failed to protect a man murdered by a serial offender who had previously threatened him, a Labour MP has told a Westminster debate.

      Jordan Davidson was jailed for life for killing Nicholas Churton, 67, at the victim's Wrexham home in March 2017.

      Wrexham MP Ian Lucas asked why Davidson had not been returned to prison after being arrested while out on licence.

      Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said improvements were being made after "significant failings" in the case.

      "The primary responsibility of the criminal justice system is to keep people safe," Mr Lucas told fellow MPs on Tuesday.

      "I want to highlight a dreadful case, where it did not do so."

      During the murder trial, Mold Crown Court heard how 26-year-old Davidson, from Wrexham, had carried out a string of crimes, mostly against older men, and had been freed from prison on licence in December 2016.

      Davidson admitted murdering the retired restaurant owner - killed in a machete and hammer attack - and was jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years.
      Mr Lucas told MPs that Mr Churton - described in court as physically frail and disabled - had "complained a number of times to the police about Jordan Davidson" after the younger man's release, and that Davidson had known this.

      "In March of 2017, just four months after being released on licence, Davidson was arrested for another offence of possession of a knife," the MP continued.

      "He was, nonetheless, released by the police on bail without even a court appearance."

      Mr Lucas claimed that changes to the probation system in 2014-15 "contributed to the failure of supervision that led to the release of Jordan Davidson, to the assaults on a number of victims and to the death of Nicholas Churton".

      The MP said he was also angry that North Wales Police had refused to meet him to discuss the matter.

      Two investigations are ongoing into how police dealt with the case.

      Machete killer gets 23 years in jail

      Police hunt murder suspect after death

      Responding for the UK government, Ms Atkins said a review by the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company(CRC) "identified a number of areas where the practice of those concerned with the monitoring of Mr Davidson fell below expected standards".

      "There were significant failings," Ms Atkins added, saying the prison and probation service was now overseeing the implementation of "improved actions" following the review.

      The minister said the probation system reforms meant an extra 40,000 offenders were being monitored after their release but she claimed fewer were re-offending.

      However, she added: "The Ministry of Justice accepts that there have been challenges and that CRC services need to improve.

      "So they are in discussions with the providers at the moment and will consider all options to ensure this improvement is delivered.

      "That is, of course, no comfort to the family of Mr Churton."

      A spokesperson for North Wales Police said: "As there is an IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] investigation under way, it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage."

  8. Today (26/06/18) I receive a, “reminder” that I need to vote and send my ballot paper off to arrive by 12 noon on 21st June. 2nd Class post to arrive this Thursday? You could not make this up.

    Do not worry I have already voted for Mike and in good time. I am disgusted with the way Ian Lawrence has disrespected members and his opponent. He has brought Napo into disrepute.

    I have been deprived the right to ask Ian or Mike any questions that may sway my vote because Ian has made up rules that both candidates must attend and when a branch offers dates Ian is conveniently not available. Yet still attending branch meetings in his capacity as GS.

    I stuck up for Ian when he was called a PCS reject, when people said he knew nothing about probation, was thick and acted “yobbish”. I ignored the slanderous rumours about inter office affairs and dodgy dealings. Why? Because I liked and respected Ian. I thought what you saw is what you got. How wrong was I? He has used every trick to stifle debate/discussion for this election, hardly any information has come out, usually a general election causes a buzz, this one has been a damp squib. That is not a mistake it is intentional. Ian is relying on a low turnout, better the devil you know. Well if Ian the devil we know wins I am leaving Napo. Not because my guy did not win but because the way this election was implemented. Whoever you were backing do you not feel cheated, used, disgusted that basic democracy was not upheld?

    If Ian wins the election I ask the NEC to call for an investigation into the election. I will be complaining to the electoral commission, and have started a petition of disgust and redress (only started today) but already have 28 signatures from members who agree.

    I saw a discussion on Facebook where Les Priestly wrote “who’s your opponent(s) Ian? To which Ian replied “Michael Rolfe check him out on FB ex socialist party trot. Masquerading for Labour, chancer and maverick. You’ll see that his GS is endorsing me!”

    Ian you contemptuous little s**t. How dare you. You are beneath contempt.

    1. oi oi oi calm down get you facts right and when you understand half of what your gobbing off about you might focus on the real issues. However despite your wrong on many counts can you tell us what all this inter office affairs actually means to you at least? Even if that may not be true either.

    2. Hi to oi oi oi 20:21 what you should be asking yourself not the angry poster above is how can a union like the PCS which has Mark Serwotka as its well established and respectable leader and who managed both Lawrence and Rogers turn out such a pair of duds . Shall we blame Serwotka failing in training of this pair of no hopers.

    3. 20.27 you missed the point. They were PCS rejects! Lucky us.

    4. To be fair to Ian Lawrence the rules governing election of GS will not have been drawn up by him but by the NEC and Officers group who act as employers on behalf of members or more precisely the volunteer group of NEC reps who volunteer to be available to interview candidates for any HQ paid employee role(eg Admin/GS/AGS/National Officials) and negotiated with reps for the HQ staff. The Red Book details t&c for paid staff. Think the National Officers work on what the t&c are and NEC would presumably have input via confidential element of NEC meetings and work of the above special group I believe. Conceivable that Red Book is amendable largely by National Officers with neg with HQ staff reps but am sure NEC would have a say. Also changes to RB could be suggested by HQ staff and then negotiated between National Officers and the paid staff negotiator in same way we have reps who negotiate with our employers on any changes to our t&c(aka historically as the White Book)

  9. The article in the Times is a Tory arguing against the Conservatives ideological fetish
    of outsourcing.
    Paywall. Maybe Andrew can help?

    The article in the Mirror is Rory Steward admitting Grayling made a massive cock up with an MOJ contract.



    1. Rory has been before the justice committee today.


    2. Failing Chris Grayling has come under fire after a fellow Tory minister admitted a massive privatisation project he signed off on was ‘completely unsustainable.’

      Grayling, who was Justice Secretary at the time, awarded a £200 million contract to Carillion between 2012 and 2015.

      The outsourcing giant collapsed earlier this year.

      But Justice minister Rory Stewart told a committee of MPs Carillion’s plan to offer the taxpayer a £15 million saving by ‘underbidding’ on the contract was “completely unsustainable.”

      He told the Justice Select Committee: “What effectively happened there, I believe, is we had a contractor come in to us - and this is something that is a vulnerability with all private sector contractors - who effectively offered, at their own risk, to do our maintenance for considerably less money than it would cost us to do. In effect £15m a year less.

      "We signed up to that and in retrospect, more weight should have been given to saying, ‘Wait a second, what on earth is Carillion proposing here?

      “They are basically proposing to do this and lose £15m a year.

      "Is that really sustainable or are we going to end up back in a situation where we are paying for it?"

      He said it had been a “real, real lesson” for the Ministry of Justice.

      And he added: “We did not get the deal that Carillion was proposing to give us because it turned out that what Carillion was proposing to us was completely unsustainable in terms of their finances."

      Mr Grayling, now Transport Secretary, is under mounting pressure to quit over the ongoing rail chaos blighting Northern and Govia Thameslink commuters.

      Richard Burgon, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, said: “From the crisis in prisons maintenance to the failings of our probation services, the Tories’ obsession with privatisation and outsourcing has caused widespread damage to our justice system – and it’s the public who’ve had to foot the bill.

      “With a Labour government, there will be no new private prisons and no public sector prisons will be privatised. Labour will bring all the outsourced prison maintenance contracts back in house at the earliest possible opportunity. The Tories must abandon this failed experiment of prison privatisation.”

    3. Tories should forget ideology and focus on how to run the best public services
      bim afolami

      Our public services are the pride and joy of the United Kingdom. Whether it is our schools or hospitals, our roads or railways, public services are crucial to the social fabric of our country – and making them stronger and better still is at the heart of what the Conservative Party stands for. And as the son and grandson of NHS public servants, it is at the heart of what I stand for.

      Unlike many, I don’t believe that Conservatives should be focussed on an ideological pursuit. Instead, I think that public services should be run in the way that works best for the ordinary citizen – be that public, private or voluntary – and that public services are delivered efficiently for them and their families.

      The Public Accounts Committee, on which I sit, counts the effective and efficient stewardship of our public services as one of our primary goals.

      Carillion’s liquidation in January highlighted how important outsourcing is and how critical it is that when we harness the innovation, skills and expertise of the private sector to deliver public services it is done carefully and robustly.

      Thankfully, in the case of Carillion, public services continued to be delivered smoothly and without interruption. But the incident, and the investigations that are subsequently underway, have revealed fundamental issues with how our outsourcing model currently works. At the moment, things are not good enough.

      Governments of all colours have often been wary of businesses making a high return on their investment – something they are perfectly entitled to do. And for their part, businesses have been critical of government only looking at bids based on pure cost alone and not factoring into account wider social factors.

      What we need now is a new model of outsourcing – one that looks wider than just the basis of value for money alone.

      That is why I was greatly encouraged to hear the announcements made yesterday by the Cabinet Office to strengthen the outsourcing market and diversify it so public services are delivered by an even wider range of private, public and voluntary sectors.

      By requiring major suppliers to develop ‘living wills’, the government can go much further than previously by having firms develop detailed contingency plans in the event that company failure does become a concrete risk – and so make sure that public services continue to be delivered smoothly and without any risk to the taxpayer.

      It is also welcome that the public will be able to better monitor and evaluate the performance of companies providing key public services. By increasing transparency requirements – specifically the regular publication of key performance indicators such as response rates and on-time delivery – the taxpayer can better monitor how their money is being spent, and so better hold companies to account.

      The government has recognised that it has a duty to help better regulate and manage the market. By diversifying the marketplace in order to encourage different sorts of providers to bid for public services – such as mutuals, co-operatives, social enterprises and charities, as well as small businesses – we can build healthier, more competitive markets that will not only make the most of talent right across our country, but reduce the government’s traditional reliance on a group of large suppliers such as Carillion.

      These measures today are only a start but they are a promising one; the government has shown it has listened and learned the lessons from Carillion, but has recommitted itself to the private provision of public services, something governments have championed for decades.

      Bim Afolami is Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, and is a member of the Public Accounts Committee

    4. Govia - Like Gove, but more so?
      Sorry, I haven't a clue.

  10. If I remove my instinctive reaction to privatisation and outsourcing important public services and try to focus on what I know works and makes sense then TR aka privatisation did not make sense in respect of Probation work. I then look at the outcomes of TR and that reinforces my standpoint. At the time of TR senior figures in Probation were muttering (quietly, they didn't want their idiot overlords getting any more bright ideas!) that it would make more sense to privatise the lot rather than fragment the service. Actually they were wrong, the evidence shows that the NPS has functioned far more successfully than its privatised partners who have largely failed in their remit. It is a shame that wriggle room excuses still prevail so that privatisation the sequel is being planned. TR was primed to system fail and it has duly delivered. Dreading the sequel.

  11. Tomorrow’s blog maybe?

    Early Day Motion 1449

    That this House welcomes the recent Justice Committee report on the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms; notes the Committee remains unconvinced that these reforms can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service; expresses concern that staff morale is at an all-time low, according to the report, with the Committee chair describing the probation system as a mess; believes that part-privatising the award-winning probation service in 2015, with a focus on payment by results, was a risky and expensive mistake; and calls on the Government to consult with staff unions including Napo and Unison on how to bring the whole probation service back into the public sector.