Monday 30 December 2013

Another Leaked Memo!

Another memo from the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice to the Secretary of State has come into my possession, and I thought I'd share it with you:-


As you are aware, with the approach of the festive season and beginning of a New Year, it is customary to provide a report on critical projects within the Department.  Our main focus in the coming year will remain delivering the Transforming Rehabilitation Implementation Programme and therefore this memorandum will deal principally with this policy area.

Again I'm happy to report that basically things are progressing well with only minor glitches being evident and a slightly extended timeframe. I'm assured that we are pretty much on schedule with only one or two Trusts having been somewhat tardy in getting the 'sifting and sorting' out of the way before the year end. All Trusts have now fallen into line, although it was a little surprising that some were willing to 'test the boundaries' to the extent they did. I am however cautiously optimistic that there will be no further difficulties from this quarter.

I agree entirely that the 'leaks' represent an intolerable situation and I can assure you that every effort is being made to locate the sources. Unfortunately I'm advised that there are countless possible individuals who have access to the Risk Assessments and that therefore in a worse case scenario, we may have to accept that the Department remains somewhat 'leaky'. I know this remains a matter of the gravest concern to Ministers, but sadly we may never know who the culprits are. It's a very poor show indeed and may I unreservedly apologise for the very unfortunate reference to the project being likened to 'turning a silk purse into a sow's ear'.  

In the Department we continue to monitor the total probation staff headcount on a regular basis and I'm happy to report that we are well within target in terms of the shedding and natural wastage planned for. Indeed the target has been exceeded to such an extent that it is anticipated all eligible section heads within the Department will have triggered performance related bonus payments by the financial year end.

The reduction in staff overheads has been so successful that I am advised there may well be an overshoot which will require the selective re-employment of some key staff. You will be mindful of the huge success the Department has had recently in re-employing prison officers on fixed-term contracts so as to cover critical understaffing at the London jails. I'm advised that there should be no reason to doubt that probation staff can be encouraged to return on a similar basis.

The Contract Procurement Team continue to report strong interest across all sectors, but it is slightly disappointing that a number of potentially interested parties felt obliged to withdraw, citing issues connected with possible reputational damage. It is also true to say that feedback from potential bidders continues to highlight the higher than expected degree of antipathy and resistance to change being exhibited amongst probation staff, but as you are aware, urgent measures are being adopted to address this issue.

The voluntary sector in particular are being slightly slow in coming forward, however I'm happy to report that, during another recent extremely convivial dinner, Sir Stephen Bubb was able to assure me that nerves have been calmed and that 'charities would definitely be up for it'. As you know, Sir Stephen enjoys access at the highest levels and his assistance, particularly with public relations, has been absolutely key.  

It would seem that the change of emphasis from 'revolution' to a rather less dramatic-sounding 'evolution' is beginning to have the desired effect in calming nerves within the workforce. Undoubtedly the decision to bring forward the announcement of the embryonic Probation Institute has been beneficial, and early indications are that it is assisting in affording the project greater legitimacy generally.

The IT team continue to undertake sterling work, having been bolstered by the temporary secondment of staff from the highly successful Universal Credit Procurement Project. We were indeed extremely fortunate that such high calibre staff became available at such short notice and I'm assured they are already having an effect on the Transforming Rehabilitation IT Harmonisation Programme and that it is both on time and within budget. 

As you are aware, negotiations have now concluded with the Unions and it should be noted what enormous assistance it has been to have had prior serendipitous sight of their position via e-mail. In relation to the blogsite which I know has been causing you some concern, it is true to say there has been a modest increase in activity, but it is still only averaging between 2,500 and 3,000 hits daily. I'm assured there is absolutely no cause for concern. 

In essence I remain confident that the project is completely deliverable and remains robustly on target for full implementation by the summer of 2015 at the absolute latest. 

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,             


  1. The sun always shines in Grayling's corner of the universe. For those of us facing the uncertainties (alongside the appalling certainties) of TR, the outlook is much bleaker.

  2. Obviously a spoof but a pretty amusing one at that.

  3. Haha, brilliant


  5. The probation service has been branded “not fit for purpose” after allowing a dangerous paedophile, who was released from prison early, to abscond from his accommodation and go on the run.
    Mark Sleman, 42, was initially jailed for nine years in 1994 for the sickening kidnap and attempted rape of a ten-year-old vicar’s daughter.
    Despite being described by the judge as a “cold, callous psychopath” and being diagnosed with a personality disorder, Sleman was allowed out of prison early.
    But he had to be returned after breaching the terms of his licence by going on the run in order to go to a nightclub.
    In 2008 he was given a seven-year prison sentence for robbing a homeless man at knifepoint, but astonishingly was again released early before completing his full sentence.
    Now, the family of his original victim have reacted with fury, after the probation service allowed him to abscond from his accommodation for a second time and disappear.
    Sleman who is a supporter of the far-right English Defence League, has been at large since August when he disappeared from his accommodation in Exeter and police are desperately trying to locate him before he reoffends.
    The mother of the girl attacked by Sleman last night said the service had completely let her family down and she suggested it not fit for purpose.
    The 52-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reason, said: “It just beggars belief that Sleman has been allowed to go on the run again. Surely after he breached the terms of his licence the first time he should never have been given another opportunity.
    “My daughter has managed to rebuild her life over the past 20-years but then she hears about this and it brings it all back. She is terrified that he is going to come looking for her or that he will attack another little girl.
    “Prison is not the right place for Sleman, he is mentally ill and should be in Broadmoor, but instead he is at large because the probation service is incapable of keeping an eye on him.
    “When he first breached the terms of licence he disappeared in order to go to a nightclub. The probation worker said to me, ‘well he’s been inside for a long time so it’s understandable he wanted to go for a drink’. I was staggered.”
    She added: “Every day that goes by increases the risk of his reoffending so he needs apprehending and fast.”
    Sleman has spent almost 20 of his 42 years in prison for a wide range of violent and sexual offences.
    In 1994 he entered a vicarage and kidnapped a ten-year-old girl after telling her there had been a burglary and her parents had said she should go with him.
    He then took her to the caravan where he was living at the time, tied her up and subjected her to a sickening attempted rape over several hours.
    In 2010, before his most recent release Sleman wrote an article for the prisoners’ newspaper, Inside Time, in which he complained that he was not given enough support when he was released on licence and that is why he reoffended.
    But despite having previously breached the terms of his release on numerous occasions, the authorities were powerless to prevent Sleman getting out early following his most recent sentence.
    Under the current rules anyone serving a determinate sentence of more than 12 months must be released from prison, on licence, at the halfway point.
    However, justice minister Chris Grayling has proposed a change in the law to prevent child rapists from getting out of prison before they have completed their full sentence.
    A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: "Serious offenders on licence who live in Approved Premises are subject to strict licence conditions and are carefully supervised by specially trained staff.
    “They must follow a structured regime, which includes an overnight curfew and can be recalled to prison if they breach them. Once recalled, it is a matter for the police to return them to custody."

    1. I wonder who would be less concerned if indeed he had of been released after completion of his entire sentence with no supervision what-so-ever?
      Approved premises are not prisons and probation staff are not prison officers. They have their specific place in a multi agency criminal justice system.
      Unfortunately, this article only serves to highlight just how little the general public really understand the role of the probation service and the work it is charged with carrying out.

    2. A good example of a very misleading article from the The Telegraph in my humble opinion. Poorly thought through, unfair and biased journalism.

    3. I really wonder at the lack of self-respect shown by journalists at the Torygraph - surely they can't be happy just churning out blatant Government propaganda like this?

      And how can the headline say "branded not fit for purpose" when there is no reference to this in the article at all? Still, at least we know how Grayling is spending his holidays - feeding stuff like this to his take scribblers in the right-wing press.

    4. This man has ben at large since last August and only now gets this Telegraph treatment. Cui bono? And we know who. The language in the article is so tendentious: why was he 'allowed' to abscond and the police are 'desperately' trying to find him. Worthy of tabloid journalism at its worst.

    5. That article has privatisation propaganda written all over it. I'm thinking of doing a mock oasis on You-know-who. At least the thinking and behaviour section

  6. At first I wondered if the article was a spoof like Jim's. Depressingly it isn't. I agree with Anon above, there is a distinct lack of understanding of what the Probation Service (or whatever it is to be called) can do.

    1. Can we take a more forensic look at this scenario - and maybe get Harry Fletcher to exercise his media knowledge in our favour?

      My points are:

      1. wholesale destruction of a highly regarded public service is barely an issue for the media; no-one gives a shit. It took much searching to find the stories posted in past months.

      2. type in "probation not fit for purpose" (per above story) and you'll immediately get nigh on 100 high profile returns through a search engine for this.

      3. Is this the power of Telegraph links? Is this the power of negative press? Is this the power of victim-centric stories? Is it that 'probation' has no meaning unless or until the public can blame 'probation'. Who said "not fit for purpose"? In what context? Who cares? No-one... so what does this tell us about our role?

      4. The story (as many have pointed out) is factually inaccurate, gives a wholly inaccurate account of the role of probation; but very accurately represents the fear and despair of a distraught and devastated human being who needs someone to blame.

      5. Perhaps this highlights the professionalism & vision demanded of the VLO - yet another probation role.

      6. It certainly is a prime example of journalism by a blinkered, self-satisfied wannabe hack who has no concept of the trail of damage their story will have left behind...

    2. Victim Perspective is understandable. MOJ perspective is clearly defined. Probation perspective is not given. Media perspective is false, stigmatising, biased propaganda and journalism at its worst!

  7. Never before has this part from a man for all season be relevant now.

  8. Totally off topic, but its interesting me thinks given that Grayling is very dependent on his LibDem friends to push some of his reforms through- and one of them is a minister for justice. I'm not even sure if Cameron will be best pleased with this latest development.
    Keep going Chris, you really are making it hard for the tories to win the next election.

    1. A senior Conservative has accused the Liberal Democrats of blocking tougher controls on Bulgarian and Romanian workers, sparking a coalition row in the last hours before Britain's borders are opened to immigrants from the two newest EU countries.

      Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, spoke out after 90 Tory activists wrote to the prime minister urging him to apply emergency powers before controls on immigration from the eastern European countries end on New Year's Day.

      In a letter to David Cameron, the Tory grassroots campaigners said the government has the ability to stop a potential influx of immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania, because EU law allows a country to extend controls if it is "undergoing or foresees serious labour market disturbances".

      But when asked about the powers, Grayling signalled that the Liberal Democrats had stopped the Conservatives bringing in stricter rules and "sorting out" the issue before the deadline. His comments were immediately rubbished by Lib Dem sources, who said the Tories had never even suggested trying to further restrict immigration from Bulgaria and Romania because it would be illegal under EU law.

      Downing Street fears that the public will react badly if there is an influx of immigrants from the two countries when restrictions end on 1 January 2014. From that date citizens from the two newest EU member states will be allowed to travel to the UK to look for work and claim limited benefits. Previously they have had to apply for permits, and low-skilled workers were restricted by quotas.

      In the run up to the deadline Labour has accused the coalition of failing to do enough to address concerns and Ukip has been predicting an influx of immigrants in the hundreds of thousands.

      But Grayling suggested on Monday that the Tories have had their hands tied on the issue by the Lib Dems. "The reality is that we're not a majority party in the House of Commons," he told Radio 4's Today programme. "The Conservative party would not be able to get through the Commons some of the things we might like to do in changing our relationship with the EU.

      "David Cameron has said very clearly he'd like to see tougher rules in future, and we've always said we would have implemented tougher rules in the past, but we don't have a majority. We've always said if people want us really to sort out our relationship with the EU to deal with issues causing massive concern to people, then they are going to have to have a majority Conservative government after the next election, because Labour and the Lib Dems are happy as things are."


  10. The Times on Friday reported that the UK’s Cabinet Office was leading a drive to bring in ‘hundreds’ of external experts to help major programmes and projects across government, many with a major procurement element. “The experts from management consultants and other industries will help to turn around difficult schemes such as Universal Credit, High Speed rail (HS2), and electronic tagging. They will also help to monitor new contracts and bulk purchasing across the public sector”. You might interpret this as a sensible way of injecting expertise into the public sector. Or you might see it as a huge climb-down from a government that made a big thing about having less dependence on external paid advisers compared to the previous Labour government. Because however this is dressed up, it is in effect an Emergency Call – “send for the consultants”!

    It’s not clear whether this is a different bunch of people to the 100 or so Bill Crothers told the Public Accounts Committee recently he was recruiting for the Crown Commercial Service. But I thought they were going to be full-time procurement staff to man the centralised procurement team – this sounds a little different? What is clear though is that after three and a half years in power, the government has failed in one key sense. It has not managed to develop the commercial and project management skills internally to deliver what it wants to deliver in terms of these programmes. Hence the need for external support. Actually, 3 years isn’t that long really in terms of trying to make a radical improvement in capability, but it’s not clear that we’re even moving in the right direction. Or – just maybe – some of these programmes are simply undeliverable because of their size and complexity (as we have discussed before). So, will all these external experts make the difference? If you look at Universal Credit, we already have a Programme Lead in Howard Shiplee who is seen as one of the very best in the business, the Cabinet Office Digital team working on it alongside the Department of Work and Pensions staff, plus smart people from the various suppliers involved. Will a handful of new ‘experts’ make the difference?

  11. Ironic that as far as the application of the above news item to TR is concerned, the Government are effectively hiring in experts to help in mangling a service that already contains 1000s of experts... I would describe that as an exercise in industrious futility...

  12. This really starts to resemble the plot of Yes Minister, gold medal award winning public service ? get rid if it and outsource the majority to incompetent private sector organisations,,, and when that starts to fall apart, employ a load of consultants to err tell you what the staff of the organisation already know. You'd laugh if it wasn't so bloody tragic.

  13. I work in prison loads of staff have left, jumped ship or taken early retirement. New staff do not know what they are doing at the very time that the prison is changing its role from a cat. C to a "Resettlement Prison".

    Now the idea I think is good in that the men can start to build connections with their family and the job market. But there is little if any planning; a date is given in which by magic the change will happen. Like all things it has been imposed from above, jobs have been cut morale is rock bottom and management is running around like headless chickens. The blueprint for change is the same as the blueprint for chaos and no doubt privatisation is at the end of the line.

    Clearly Grayling and Co do not have to think about the consequences or answer to the likes of us, the democratic illusion is well and truly buried. No their masters inhabit a different world, they are an elite separate and aloof. Its Naomi Kline's "Disaster Capitalism" at work.

    Disaster capitalism is where disaster is manufactured and welcomed. The old state institutions are condemned prior to and during the disaster by politicians and their corporate masters and then new private sector corporations move in to save the day. Alas they never do, debt and chaos become normal where ordinary people suffer on a massive scale and the oligarchs make billions off the back of this misery. Think Russia after the fall of the Wall or Iraq after " Shock and Awe" or Chile after the murder of Allende. Disaster Capitalism is now a trusted way to bring in the private sector after the creation of disaster has worked its magic. In the past it happened far away but now it happening to us.

    Fear and chaos, debt and misery replace the planned economy of the post war years; its taken 30 years to happen but its happening now.

  14. Thank you to anon 31/12 at 17.59 - Disaster Capitalism - hits the nail on the head. Oh and Mr Grayling's experts, obviously not referring to the same Experts, that is the Parole Board, who released Mark Sleman, as detailed in the original post above...and not the Probation Service...sadly, we go into 2014 still fighting to save a fair, democratic, dignified, intensely moral, supremely excellent, public service and institution, which is being dismantled by those headless chickens in the MoJ and Government.

    Happy New Year Everyone....let's give them a run for their money!!!!