Friday, 18 October 2013

Not Over By any Means

It would seem that it's proving remarkably difficult for MoJ/Noms to get the voluntary sector on board with the TR omnishambles.  For some reason, probably connected with the Work Programme debacle, they seem remarkably unwilling to step forward and commit to putting a bid in. As a result, I note that special efforts are being made to woo the sector. Here we have a senior civil servant despatched to a conference and basically begging them:-

The government’s rehabilitation reforms will not have been a success if no voluntary sector organisations win contracts to become prime providers, a senior civil servant said yesterday.
Speaking at the Third Sector Impact Measurement conference in London yesterday, Antonia Romeo, director of the criminal justice group at the Ministry of Justice, said: "We hope there are really creditable bids from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to win tier-one contracts.
"We think that if we don’t have any VCSE providers at tier one, this project will not have been a success."
Romeo said the government had introduced a number of measures to support voluntary sector organisations working with prisoners and to make it easier for sector organisations to win contracts.
"Voluntary sector organisations are absolutely essential to what we’re trying to do," she said. "Opening up the market is the key purpose of these reforms.
"Think about what partnerships you can form, formal or informal, including consortia, in order to deliver services."
In order to put a bit more pressure on the sector, I see MoJ/Noms have made the following statement:-

"Due to the high level of interest as a result of the published OJEU notice and the subsequent number of clarification questions asked by providers in preparing their responses, the Authority has taken the decision to allow an additional 14 calendar days for responses to be finalised. The deadline for submission of Pre-Qualification Questionnaires will now be 12 noon on Thursday, 14 November 2013."

I love the spin that indicates "a high level of interest". More like more time needed to twist some arms!
On day one of the Napo AGM in sunny Llandudno, the message from speaker after speaker is that "this is not over by any means". Elfyn Llwyd MP kicked things off with a spirited assault on Chris Grayling's plans and stated that even Tory members of the Justice Affairs Committee were now having serious reservations about the whole TR omnishambles. 
We know there's a lot of disquiet from members of the Upper House and due credit was paid to Harry Fletcher in basically orchestrating the ambush on the government earlier in the year. The House of Commons will now have to debate the matter and Elfyn reminds us that because privatising the probation service was not in the Tory Party manifesto at the last General Election, the Westminster Act cannot be used to force things through the House of Lords.
There was a creditable and warmly-received speech from Napo Chair Tom Rendon who, due to legal restrictions, had to skirt around circumstances that led to the departure of the last General Secretary. The audience absolutely loved the passionate contribution from Professor Paul Senior who never disappoints and like Elfyn, absolutely demolished Grayling's case for TR. Such is his passion for the profession that he was able to provide graphic evidence that, if cut in half, he would have 'probation' written right through him.
Harry Fletcher was awarded a well-deserved standing ovation in recognition of his 30 years service to the union, but there was no hiding the hurt and pain he says he went through before resigning, emphatically not retiring, in February this year. The story still cannot be told for legal reasons, but it's clear it will not be a pleasant tale when eventually told.
But the battle for our profession and public service must go on and today we hear the results of the recent ballot for industrial action. It's not over by any means!


  1. I can't be there so please keep the info coming Jim. Try the old two blog in one day again...please

    1. Good idea - but the need for food, and more importantly drink, significantly eat into the time available. Unfortunately I'm in the only B&B in Llandudno with complete internet connection failure, but will do my best.

  2. I think there are many reasons why the voluntary sector appear reluctant to commit to TR. I think you rightly point to the work programme as a source of some of this reluctance. They have recently attracted considerable fall out about their involvement with the DWP, and in the earlier days discovered that they didn't always get what they thought they were getting as the government fed the primes and the primes fed them. You won't get very fat if your feeder is Serco or G4S!
    So part of the problem is that they want their own bit of cake, keeping their own independence.
    1. Because they know what their signing up to, and
    2. Because they can avoid much of the fall out that may come from association with companies such as Serco and G4S.
    Wouldn't do to be seen as partners with organisations that are constantly being accused of human rights issues in the Middle East, Austraila, Africa and even the USA.
    But without association with the 'big boys' it's difficult to what function they would meet within the TR agenda?
    It all leads to an identity crisiss. And least of all is the issue are we a charity operating as a social enterprise, or a social enterprise operating as a charity? The difference may seem small to some, but in legal terms it makes quite a big difference.
    Yesterday a new certification was launched for social enterprise companies. It wasn't met well in some quarters, but it should force many in the 'voluntry sector' to make their minds up about their identity.
    This however does create a large degree of squabling in the sector, and some 'old friends' will be forced to part.
    The voluntry sector is at the moment suffering its own omnishambles. The sad thing is thats its due to that woderful scent called money.
    But be assured it'll all be sorted out, after all they have Bubb looking after them.

  3. Bbc news online

    1. The Napo ballot turnout was 46% with over 80% in favour of strike action.

  4. Thanks Jim

    Jeremy Wright WAS very impressive on Radio 5 Live after 1pm - it should be available later to hear again - I think about 13.40, but cannot now remember exactly the time.

    He was NOT combative and very smooth and very determined to bring in TR which he completely justifies with the lower rate of reoffending. The reason Probation Trusts cannot bid is because bidders have to risk something by way of money and Trusts can only risk public money which would not count. He again said the PbR will mean outsourcers ONLY make profits if they reduce rate of reoffending.

    Finally and worst of all from my point of view he used the fact that some Probation Mutuals are preparing to bid as a sign TR is a good idea.

    So please NO collusion or anything that can be construed as encouragement by those who favour outsourcing.

    How can anyone make a proper decision about their future employment without knowing ALL the job description AND all the terms and conditions before making a commitment? I fear some will make commitments on the basis of what is least worse. If no one agrees to be TUPEeed it forces the hand of MOJ and hopefully most importantly slows the whole business down past the General Election. I think it unlikely Labour will introduce privatisation but doubt they will reverse it, though inevitably which ever government is in power 12 to 18 months after TR is implemented (if it happens) will have to sort out the mess.

    Interesting they are letting the bid date slip by two weeks and have indicated a willingness to let SERCO & G4S bid if they can get through the financial review.

    The MOJ is backing off despite Wright's smoothness, they cannot introduce TR without staff agreeing to do the work - never mind the industrial action the government needs Probation staff more than Probation staff need them. There are other jobs, probably almost for every probation worker, especially in Social Services.

    Interesting, to see the extent of support Steve Gillan of POA offered, I cannot see Probation folk breaking the law to support the POA, I wonder what his members think of his offer - presumably he personally would not go on strike?

    Andrew Hatton

  5. ITV are reporting that Grayling "is intending to allow" Serco and G4S to bid

    Andrew Hatton

  6. Personal opinion only but people need to shout very loud about selling public services to Serco and G4S. It's scandal after scandal, and the public need to be reminded that it's not just about a financial audit, theres also a criminal investigation that could lead to prosecution.
    The reality is with no Serco or G4S, there's no TR.

  7. Realistically, G4S and Serco will already have invested huge sums of money in this process and the Government will have based some of their financial planning on their assumed participation. There is no way they will not be allowed to bid. The influence of G4S is indeed extensive, a colleague saw a member of the ( independent) Parole Board making notes on a G4S notepad recently - what is that about ?

  8. Private Eye magazine has some intersting snippets this issue, including additonal info about Lord Backalley's meetings with A4E lobbyists. He seems to have been understanding about reducing the risks for the bidders.

    More disturbing is the article on page 31 which refers to MoJ appointing "transformation managers" and the concluding observation: "But woe betide any staff member who objects to the changes. MoJ guidance is that any objection to a transfer 'brings that person's employment to an end' and they will be treated as if they had resigned."

    The sifting will soon begin & blood will spill as staff contracts are wantonly slaughtered at the altar of greed & stupidity.

    Conference - I am unable to be there but would ask via whoever IS able to carry this message directly (apologies if any of these ideas have been raised already) - please lets have some FOI requests about the 'pam' IT platforms; please lets stop being passive in this debacle; and, to further echo the sentiments of anon@17:07, please lets get some counter-information into the public arena so that the futility of TR is wholly exposed - regardless of the bullshit Wright, Grayling & co can spout in their prime media slots.

  9. G4S - a fascinating story at

    It opens thus: "My name is Glenda Beato. I live in a densely housed area in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire — there's a mixed culture of families and elderly people.

    I knew that my neighbour had sold his property back in May — apparently to a “nice couple”. He’d told me himself. But then a bright yellow planning application notice appeared on the Sold board which stated that a Mr Simon Herbert of a private address in Lidington, Bedfordshire, was applying to change the property into a children’s home.

    The notice said he had submitted an application to change the property from Class 3 to a Class 2 (residential to business use). I rushed indoors to search Aylesbury Vale District Council’s website.

    The application form confirmed Mr Herbert’s name and home address, but no company name. Perhaps a caring couple were going to foster 12 to 18 year olds?

    But what was that smiley-faced logo? I thought it might indicate that Mr Herbert ran other homes, so I googled him and discovered that he was, in fact, the commercial director of G4S Children’s Homes.

    I discovered that G4S owned eight more of these homes — those same four smiley faces peered out at me.

    All I knew of G4S was that they were the people who'd bungled security at the London Olympics. I had no idea they ran children's homes as well."

    It gets better folks...


  11. From an Independent story June 2012:

    The government will be challenged in parliament next week over the services provided in Israeli settlements within occupied Palestinian territory by the company chosen to run security for London 2012...

    ...William Hague has repeatedly condemned the settlements, saying in April that "systematic, illegal Israeli settlement activity poses the most significant and live threat to the viability of the two-state solution... the Israeli government's policy is illegal under international law, counter-productive, destabilising and provocative."


    ...The Foreign Office itself signed a three-year £27m contract in March 2010 with G4S to provide security services in the UK and Afghanistan. The FCO said yesterday that G4S provided a "valuable service" protecting its staff. But it added: "We have made clear our position on settlements to G4S and other private companies who operate in Israel and the Occupied Territories."

    In the same vein, the IRR reported that at G4S AGM in 2013:

    The first question came from Danish MP, Nikolaj Villumsen, who had travelled to the UK especially to attend the G4S AGM. He asked how G4S could square its claims in the corporate responsibility report with the service it provided to Israeli prisons where ‘Palestinians are imprisoned and, the UN says, tortured.’ A War on Want senior campaigns officer brandished affidavits from children held in solitary confinement and tortured at G4S prisons in Israel.

    Other questions followed on G4S’ other activities. How much had the UK Border Agency/Home Office fined the firm for the death of Jimmy Mubenga? Why asked a woman was G4S recently awarded a contract to run two sexual assault referral centres in the west Midlands? Would the board publish figures on the number of people who die in G4S custody or care and the measures the firm would take to reduce such deaths? Does the company pay the UK Living Wage rate to all UK employees and has it ensured on-site contractors also received the UK Living Wage?

    An activist stated: "Diana Neslen (Stop G4S): ‘G4S has manoeuvred itself into a pole position to profit from the coalition government’s plans to destroy public services. The government’s wholesale privatisation of public services is already proving disastrous. Its willingness to hand control of public services to a company that has shown such disregard for human rights is terrifying.’

  12. In reply to EssexAndrew at 15:57, whilst I totally agree with your comments about not being able to make a proper decision about their future employment as we don’t know the job description, we will be faced with a difficult choice. If we don’t sign a contact then we will be out of work in April 2014 without any redundancy.

    I’m sure most would love to refuse to sign, and they couldn’t terminate everyone’s contract in April 2014, but reality is that this will not happen – the majority will have to sign just to be able to continue paying bills. Additionally, I’m sure MoJ will argue we know our terms and conditions for the period between April to October 2014, which, as I understand it, is the period they we would be signing up for.

    It would be great if there is any employment laws that could be investigated by via NAPO to see if it can be challenged, but as it stands, I think most staff forced with Hobson’s choice will have to sign.

    So, come on NAPO, lets use whatever funds are in the coffers and start as many legal challenges as possible, in whatever area there is likely to be some milage.

  13. Hopefully this will be covered in the Judicial Review or maybe Napo will advise signing with a qualification of some sort.

    I wonder whether this was the sort of issue Joe Kuipers has in mind in his blog - meanwhile a letter to an MP would alert them to the dilemma.

    I do not know what I would do.

    Andrew Hatton