Monday 30 June 2014

This is London Calling!

There's no doubt about it. The Greater London Branch of Napo are definitely on a roll at the moment and can clearly teach Napo HQ a thing or two about working the media. First there was that astonishing editorial in the FT last week:-  
"British governments of all political colours have been too promiscuous about transferring activities to the private sector. Not every public service lends itself to going private. The powers invested in the state for sensitive services such as prisons can never be adequately captured in a contract, and should not be supplied by private contractors. The government must control its temptation to outsource on all fronts. The rush to outsource the probation service is a case in point."
Then we learn from the GLB website this:-

"You can also see more than a little Napo GLB influence in this FT Editorial."

Then today the FT published a clearly well-informed article, highlights from which are:- 
Bids for £800m privatisation of probation service due on Monday
Private companies are finalising bids for £800m a year in contracts to run UK probation services, one of the government’s most ambitious privatisations so far.
The move to create a market in probation services on this scale is untested and will be closely watched worldwide.
Although some US states and European countries have outsourced parts of their probation services – including Austria, for example, through Neustadt, a private not-for-profit organisation – this is the first time that core probation services have been privatised anywhere.
Paul Senior, professor of criminology at Sheffield Hallam University, said the move was “unprecedented”. “Everywhere else the state has always retained oversight of the core services, so this model is completely untested,” he said. The process will be watched in Australia and in eastern Europe, where many countries are introducing probation services based on the old model used for England and Wales.
The plans are going ahead despite fierce opposition from MPs and peers of all parties, who say they are being rushed through ahead of next year’s election. Both the Justice and the Public Accounts select committees have registered their concerns, while the National Audit Office has also warned of risks.
Napo, the probation workers union, which strongly opposes the outsourcing, says staff – now divided between the new community rehabilitation companies and the national probation service – are struggling to cope. Napo says that computer failures with a new IT system have wiped thousands of offenders’ files, many staff have left leading to increasing vacancies, and morale is low.
And here is the background to that article as detailed on the GLB facebook page:-.

Financial Times reports that Bids for £800m privatisation of probation service due on Monday

Every article out there has a history. This particular article started life after a chance meeting outside the Serco AGM with Financial Times journalist Gill Plimmer who heard Napo GLB Chair Pat Waterman talking to SERCO CEO Rupert Soames about the Community Payback contract in London. Both parties realized the significance of this meeting and stayed in touch.

Pat leads from the front and knows that activism is not just about staying in an office sending emails and meetings with senior managers but involves getting out there and talking to members, building working relations with key people in the media, government, establishing links with other trade unions, and other relevant organisations.

As a result of briefing journalists like Gill about what the government is doing regarding probation they are able to write knowledgeably about the issues. All articles of this type are at pains to ask all parties involved to comment but rely on a variety of experts as information contained in them has the potential to wipe a lot of value off share prices of companies mentioned.

We are fortunate that this is something Pat (who was a former union press officer) and her team prioritise and work hard to achieve and as a result we now have a formidable network that is unprecedented in Napo in London's history and we are are fast becoming the 'go to' for the media on a variety of criminal justice and probation stories - causing Grayling a considerable headache.

Some results are immediate whilst others take a bit of planning and building over several months to come to fruition and where a story is a national one Napo HQ are always notified and involved. As a result you are now seeing a flurry of well researched articles in national newspapers and will continue to see these from now on.

More articles are in the pipeline.

In order to view the article you need to register on the FT website and you can view eight articles a month for free.

Well done GLB and Pat Waterman! Finally, here she is writing earlier today:-



How “Interesting“ are you finding it?

In conversation recently with a former member of LPT’s Senior Management Team (who is now part of the Senior Management Team of the London CRC) I was told that he wanted to see what would happen now as he thought it might be interesting.

Interesting is not the first word that springs to my mind when I reflect on what has happened and what could happen.

Disturbing, dangerous, distressing, and disastrous are words that I would use. I do not just want to see what happens. I want to try to stop it happening. Napo is against Grayling’s Transforming Rehabilitation Plans at both local and national level. This will inevitably lead to differences of opinion between the trade union and those whose commitment is to making the new organisations work..

Having said that this trade union, again at both local and national level, is committed to protecting the interests of all its members as much as it can. This involves entering into constructive and meaningful dialogue with the management teams of, at the moment , both the NPS and the CRC. Since the demise of LPT there have no formal structures for doing so and my priority has been to initiate discussions to set these up.

Last week the Branch Vice Chairs and I met with Sara Robinson, and a NOMS Senior HR Business Partner, and Nick Smart and two members of his Senior Management Team. This meeting had no formal status or agenda but was extremely helpful in teasing out issues that will need to be addressed in the near future.

We were told that CRC support for employment relations cases will cease to be provided to the NPS from next week but that the CRC will continue to provide IT support for the NPS until September. Acknowledgement was made of the IT problems that have beset us all since the beginning of June and we were advised that twenty two temporary CA’s are being brought in for three months to help clear the back log caused by the inability of the IT systems to allow existing staff to log on new work.

A full report of this meeting, and a subsequent meeting scheduled in a fortnight’s time, will be given at the Branch AGM on Friday 18th July.

Today is the day when the MOJ will announce the final list of preferred bidders. We wait to see who the preferred bidders are for London.

There has been a lot of publicity in the press lately including in The Financial Times. The article in the FT started life after a chance meeting outside the SERCO AGM when a journalist from the FT heard me talking to the SERCO CEO Rupert Soames about the Community Payback contract in London.

I am very aware that there have been a lot of e-mails from both the branch and from our national office. I apologise but there is a lot happening and I believe that it is part of my responsibilities as chair to keep you all informed.

Pat Waterman
Napo Greater London Branch Chair

Going Global

On the day that privateers must submit their bids for the 21 probation CRC's, I feel the need to try and recap; put things into a bit of context and just pull together some thoughts and reflections that hopefully just might hang together.

We know TR is proving to be a complete omnishambles, just as predicted, but Grayling seems just as determined to carry on regardless. despite all the evidence of emerging risks. We know the policy is driven by ideology, it isn't going to save any money and the MoJ/Noms continue to prove their ineptitude on a daily basis. 

Every part of the criminal justice system appears to be in crisis. Here's a solicitor writing:-
All the while, the Government which is telling us we must be more ‘efficient’ and that those of us working in the criminal justice system are to blame, is wasting a vast amount of money on a Public Defender Service, which is not wanted or needed, but which is an example of the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice throwing their toys out of the pram when those in the criminal justice system fight back against the cuts.
I am a criminal lawyer and always will be, and I am a fighter, but this Government is consistently knocking me down and I fear that soon I and all the others who have made a career within the criminal justice system will no longer have the fight to get back up. I am in a very fortunate position, I am self employed, and I know that the solicitors who instruct me will not refuse to do so anymore on the basis of this blog. Many of my colleagues in the criminal justice system are not so lucky, whistleblowing policies seem to be a waste of paper. Those in the police, CPS and Court Service who are speaking out are finding themselves disciplined or sidelined, living in fear that if they speak out they may no longer be able to afford their rent or their mortgage. The bosses who are supposed to protect them are so ‘efficiency’ target driven that the implied term of trust and confidence only seems to exist in the employee/employer relationship and not the other way round.
I’m not looking for sympathy, just that those of us in the criminal justice system continue our fight, and support each other, as that is the only way we will prevent the implosion of the criminal justice system and ensure at least a certain amount of justice for those who are unfortunate enough to become part of it.
Prisons have been hastily closed, staff laid off to save money, but are now having to be rehired as numbers in custody soar and costs rise as premium payments are made to private prison operators encouraged to accept more inmates. Things are so bad the MoJ have had to resort to the wheeze of rounding up the early-retired in order to form a zero-contract, Dad's Army 'Prison Service Reserve', as reported here by the BBC:-   

Prison service letter

We know the probation IT systems are shite and the MoJ 'Shared Services' computer project is in disarray having cost the taxpayer millions already, as reported here:- 

A botched ERP project at the heart of the Ministry of Justice's Shared Services Programme has led to the outsourcing of the back-office functions to Steria – the very company given the original contract to set up the "in-house" systems. Departmental accounts for the MoJ's fiscal '14 ended 31 March reveal the cost of the failure to get the Shared Services strategy off the ground - a cool £56m - as the work undertaken to date is obsolete.
The Shared Service Programme (SSP) was based on ERP platform running HR, operational finance, procurement, payroll and end-to-end transactional services for 90,000 civil servants. Some 1,000 civil staff ran these functions from centres in Bootle and Newport.
"The programme has endured significant time and cost pressures to complete the original solution under the initial framework design and a combination of complex contractual arrangements and weaknesses in programme governance has resulted in poorer value for money," the accounts stated.
"As a result of this," it added, "the future direction of travel for the SSP has changed from a developed in-house solution to an outsourced solution".
The decision to abandon the public run service and enter "negotiations" with a Steria 75-per-cent-owned joint venture with the government, Shared Services Connected Ltd, was taken on by the MoJ Departmental board mid-June. The "outsourcing" is forecast to start in the "autumn of 2014", the accounts added.
As for the project work completed to date, "these outputs represent a constructive loss (expenditure that has been incurred that no longer provides any benefit)… The Shared Services constructive loss recognised in 2013-2014 is £56.3m".
This means the legacy systems and development work do not feature in the new outsourcing which is set to start in the "autumn 2014". The recent Major Projects Authority report gave the MoJ Shared Service programme a Red rating recently. It stated delays in deployments elevated costs.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, told us:
"This shows again how private companies are raking it in on the backs of taxpayers and being rewarded for failure. This contract should now be cancelled and a proper in-house bid given serious consideration to prevent millions of pounds more of our money being squandered."
The sums of money being paid to IT companies by the British Government is staggering, as this article in the Independent explains:-
Private IT companies are being paid almost £5bn a year by the taxpayer to run Government computer networks, startling new figures reveal today. An analysis of contracts across Whitehall shows that the American computer giant Hewlett-Packard alone was paid £140m a month last year by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Ministry of Justice for computer services.
Another IT firm, Capgemini, holds contracts worth £1bn a year to supply and maintain computers across central and local government. In total the Government paid £10bn to its top 20 contractors in 2013. Almost half of this was spent on IT. The sums paid out to major international IT firms dwarf the £2.2bn paid to ‘outsourcing’ companies like Serco and G4S, who have been subjected to the most ferocious public criticism over their state contracts.
The figures were uncovered by the Whitehall think-tank, the Institute for Government, and Spend Network, which aggregates raw Whitehall spending data to show which private companies are the biggest recipients of taxpayer largesse.
Despite all the cock-ups and scandals involving the private sector, Chancellor George Osborne recently made it clear that the attack on public service jobs will continue with the aim of handing shed-loads more money to largely-disgraced private companies as part of the process of dispensing with a further million public servants by 2019. In response, all Labour have said is that they will try and 'regulate' the privateers better. 

All this in stark contrast to every opinion poll that makes it clear the public do not want the privatisation of public services. We know the mainstream media, the BBC in particular, have no interest in these issues saying it's all 'old' news, and simply choose to ignore protests like the recent London 'austerity' march. I see good old Greater London Napo Branch has something to say about this on their facebook page:-
A BBC insider has informed NAPO GLB that following the anti-war and anti-austerity marches the BBC has been under increased pressure not to give extensive coverage to demonstrations, protests, or those likely to be engaged in seditious activities such as being in opposition to government policies fearing civil unrest and escalation.
But, as I've often been reminded by some more radical commentators, it's all part of a global neo-liberal conspiracy, and here's some recent proof provided courtesy of Mr Assange and reported here:-
The whistleblower and transparency website WikiLeaks published on Thursday the secret draft text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, a controversial global trade agreement promoted by the United States and European Union that covers 50 countries and is opposed by global trade unions and anti-globalization activists.
Activists expect the TISA deal to promote privatization of public services in countries across the globe, and WikiLeaks said the secrecy surrounding the trade negotiations exceeds that of even the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that has made headlines in the past year.
Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federating public service workers in 150 countries, has reported that TISA threatens to allow multinational corporations to permanently privatize vital public services such as healthcare and transportation in countries across the world.
"This agreement is all about making it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders," said PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli in response to the leak. "The aim of public services should not be to make profits for large multinational corporations. Ensuring that failed privatizations can never be reversed is free-market ideology gone mad."
The secrecy of the TISA negotiations "exceeds even the controversial Trans-Pacific Partner Agreement (TPPA) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness," wrote Jane Kelsey, a law professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand who analyzed the leaked documents on behalf of Wikileaks, which leaked portions of the TPPA in the past.
The same governments that installed the failed global trade deregulation models in the World Trade Organization that lead to the global financial meltdown are now promoting TISA, according to Kelsey and WikiLeaks.
Kelsey's analysis also confirms the concerns of trade unions like PSI that the TISA agreement would lock governments into and extend their current levels of deregulation and trade liberalization, thus preventing governments from returning public services into public hands when privatizations fail and establishing greater regulations to protect the environment and workers safety. 
So, seeing as this blog post has gone global, here are some extracts from an interesting reflection aptly entitled 'The Central Paradox of the 21st Century'. Read the whole article here. 
Our unheard of affluence as consumers, our precarious existence as workers both stem from the same source: inexorable productivity increases. Every year, as technology advances we can make more goods and services with fewer inputs of labour and capital. It used to take dozens of men to unload a ship. Today one man on a computer and another on a crane are faster than 100 longshoremen could ever be. When I started in television, producing a broadcast quality news story required a cameraman, soundman, editor, reporter, producer, and transmission engineer. Today, one person can fulfil all of those functions and generally will get paid less than any one of us used to.
Productivity increases boost our societal wealth and so make us all collectively richer but they also make more of us redundant. This is an old story and the traditional answer is that we Luddites should stop complaining and happily give up our handloom weaving gigs because technology will soon find us something even better. Perhaps that is true, in the long run, but try telling it to the children of autoworkers in Detroit or the grandchildren of ship builders in Newcastle. Technological progress today is a job killer and this process is likely to accelerate. Even China is not immune. Today it has fewer manufacturing jobs than it had in 1996 even though it is producing almost twice as many goods.
This paradox between our affluence as consumers and our precariousness as workers poses economic, political, and moral conundrums. If we can produce more with less, and workers become redundant, who will buy the goods? A robot can make a mobile phone but it cannot purchase one. Workers are also consumers. Fire your workers, your profits will rise until the day no one can afford to buy your product. Henry Ford was a visionary for paying his workers enough so they could buy his cars.
Ultimately, our production possibilities frontier and so our societal wealth is determined by our level of technology. That keeps expanding. Thus every year we should be richer. Each generation should be better off than its parents. That we are not is a problem of distribution. When Harold Macmillan told Britons in 1957, “most of our people have never had it so good”, post war prosperity was due to the introduction of labour saving technology but also because societal wealth was shared. The rich got richer during the post war golden age (1945-1973) but so did everybody else. Productivity gains were almost instantaneously transmitted into wage gains. Today the benefits of productivity gains adhere to the CEOs of companies and their shareholders, not workers.
Progressives are stuck with the notion that to cure inequality, to restore demand, we should raise wages and reduce unemployment. These are worthy goals but as technology eliminates more jobs it becomes a Sisyphean task. If you are a regular reader of Pieria, you will not be surprised I suggest a basic income guarantee as the long-term solution. As technology reduces employment opportunities while increasing production, nothing else will allow us to maintain demand sufficient to meet supply.
Ever since the invention of agriculture ten thousand years ago, we have learned that from the sweat of our brow we will earn our daily bread. This deep-seated truth is now out of date. Capitalism and technology have in large part solved the problem of supply. We need to solve the problem of demand. The first step is to realize we live in a post scarcity economy, that austerity is not the answer. The second stem is to recognize we need to divorce work from consumption. Otherwise, technological progress will impoverish us rather than enrich us and that would be tragic, ironic, and absurd.
(By the way the comments on this article are well worth a read as well)

But it's not all doom and gloom. Remember what the FT said recently in an editorial:-
"British governments of all political colours have been too promiscuous about transferring activities to the private sector. Not every public service lends itself to going private. The powers invested in the state for sensitive services such as prisons can never be adequately captured in a contract, and should not be supplied by private contractors. The government must control its temptation to outsource on all fronts. The rush to outsource the probation service is a case in point."
I'll end this rather meandering post with a video presentation from the USA that I think shows the likely direction of travel we can expect unless the public wakes up and gets active. 

Sunday 29 June 2014

TR Week Four

Just found this useful blog (no time to suss it out at work. . .) and have now for the first time in 18 yrs in Probation been forced to take l/t sick leave due long-term stress and anxiety about the farcical 'sift' process which landed me in the CRC and the fact that I feel wholly deprofessionalised, marginalised, thoroughly shat upon by the former Trust and MoJ, and the worst I've ever felt over 30yrs + at work in my life. 

No-one who isn't in the CRC appears to understand how totally demeaning this is for qualified PO's, although some NPS [former] colleagues appear to have rather more insight and sympathy than others. Sorry if this sounds very pathetic and 'poor me', but it's a good opportunity to get it off my chest. Each day brings fresh scandal about the TR joke. The entire process has got to be illegal, surely??

2 offenders details merged into one OASys...interesting....

Paperwork is being lost between CRC & NPS. We still work in the same building. Imagine what it will be like when we don't!!

So many people now involved in simple processes mean mistakes are being made. Some pre sentence reports are being allocated twice!

More TR issues. Clients just reporting in following court. No info on systems. Nobody knows who they are seeing. We look stupid.

The duplication of work that TR causes is unbelievable. 3 admin & 4 managers allocate work in my office now. Pre TR, this was 2 people!
More staff leaving, extra pressure on the rest of us trying to keep things afloat, wondering who'd be crazy enough to join this sinking ship

After 30 years in the service I desperately want to leave, I hate my job and am worried about people of my age who are not quite retirement age and no one else wants them due to being 50+. I don't know which way to turn and what else I can do this is the only job I've done since I was 21. Grayling and delius are very high risk and dangerous and nothing is getting in the way of their destruction, this can't be right, there must be someone out there with some common sense who can put a stop to all this shyte.

This whole debacle is a disgrace. It takes a special kind of incompetence and malice to take a gold award winning service and turn it into the shambles we are now witness to, and all right under the nose of Parliament. A stunning achievement. I don't think it could have been more poorly managed if they had INTENDED to do it badly. And all this BEFORE the amateurs get their hands on the service. 

In my area staff are fleeing the NPS, either leaving the service entirely or jumping ship for the CRC. It comes to something when the prospect of not knowing who your employer is or even how long you're likely to have a job for, is better than being a civil servant under Grayling.

CRC allocation makes frightening reading: all but a few tier 4 cases can be managed by PSO.
Probation staff don't want to hear hollow words & false promises. We want to be heard. This dam TR is a nightmare. Someone wake me up!!!

Saturday 28 June 2014

Omnishambles Update 55

Lets start this bumper Saturday edition with some typical PR breathless hype. Despite all reports coming in as to the reality of the situation one month into the TR omnishambles, here's a CRC advert for probation officers that are urgently required :- 
"We are looking for enthusiastic and committed individuals to join our forward thinking team of staff within the newly formed Staffordshire & West Midlands CRC. 
In addition to a sound knowledge of the principles of effective practice, we are looking to appoint Probation Officers who are resourceful and innovative, who able to respond flexibly to changing priorities, to work to tight deadlines and be committed to promoting our aims and values."
Interestingly, in addition to all the usual guff including 'quality of eOASys completion', an 'ability to supervise PSO grade staff' is required. In the present climate and state of uncertainty and staff morale, good luck to them in filling these PO posts. 

But of course such has been the utter shambles resulting from the split that the NPS is also desperately advertising for PO's as well:-

Yesterday our Assistant Director asked us to urgently supply her a list of all PO vacancies as she needs to arrange for a recruitment advert to go out. I wonder how CRC POs will feel? Will they apply and then leave CRC understaffed or will they say stuff it! It all seems a mess.

The London CRC PR people have been busy trying to present a positive image too with this 'day in the life of' piece that many seasoned and jaded PO's might find difficult to recognise:-

A day in the life of a newly qualified Probation Officer

I qualified mid 2012, after coming to probation as an administrator, and a court reporter from the banking sector when I was looking for a change. My degree is in criminology, so this is an area I’ve always wanted to work in – so training to be a probation officer was a natural progression. I love it. No two days are ever the same, and I love the feeling of being mentally exhausted at the end of the day and knowing I’ve used my brain.

My day begins at 7.45am when I arrive in the office and sit down and check my emails and catch up on anything that comes in overnight. Depending upon whether anything is urgent, I may have to reorganise my day.

Around 8.30am I wrote a letter of recommendation for a client that finished their suspended sentence, who wanted to get their licence back early following completion of a Drink Impaired Drivers programme.

At 9.30am I get up from desk and grab a coffee, and then get on with writing reports until 11am, when I have my first appointment. As a morning person, I find this to be my most productive time of the day.

I see three to four people per day from Tuesday to Thursday. The appointments last around 30 minutes, unless a client wants to talk through problems.

Generally clients have appointment weekly, bi weekly or monthly depending upon close supervision they require. I keep Fridays and Mondays as clear as I can so I can write these up. In between my appointments I write up meeting notes on the computer system. Somewhere between 12pm and 2pm, I grab lunch and eat it at my desk.

At 2pm, I meet a client to go shopping. He has been in a hostel for a longtime, and has recently been given housing by his local authority. The Sheriff and Recorders Fund at the Old Bailey gave him a grant of £100, to go towards household items – so it is my job to keep hold of the money until he has purchased what he needed. We went shopping for a microwave and kettle. It was a good chance to catch up in an informal setting.

For the rest of the day I finish reports, complete OASys reviews, reply to emails, return phone calls and check my diary to make sure I am prepared for the next day.

I love the responsibility of being a Probation Officer. I’m glad I retrained. I wanted something to test my brain, and although the job can be daunting at times, I love the feeling of going home mentally tired at night.”

As yet we have no idea as to who will end up buying and running the CRC's, but as the privateers make their final decisions on whether to place a bid or not, people like Debbie Ryan might like to be reminded of what drives people like us in the public sector. I notice that with exquisite timing the Committee on Standards in Public Life have just published a report on ethics, summarised thus:-

The Seven Principles of Public Life
The Seven Principles of Public Life apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the civil service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, NDPBs, and in the health, education, social and care services. All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The Principles also have application to all those in other sectors delivering public services.

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

Holders of public office should be truthful.

Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

There's more bad news for Chris Grayling as yet another top Judge delivers a blow to his plans for limiting Judicial Review, as reported here in the Guardian:-
Restrictions on judicial review challenges may be motivated more by a desire to avoid political embarrassment than the need to save money, a senior judge has suggested.
Appearing before the House of Lords constitution select committee, Lady Hale, deputy president of the supreme court, said she understood that ministers did not enjoy having their initiatives held up or overturned in the courts.
The Ministry of Justice is introducing measures in the criminal justice and courts bill currently before parliament that will make it more costly for NGOs to bring legal challenges against government or local authority decisions.
"I'm not sure that this is really a question of public resources," Hale told the committee. "I think the problem is, not surprisingly, that nobody who is running a government department, or who is operating in a government department, is very happy when somebody comes along and says the decision you have just taken is not in accordance with the law. Nobody likes that."
Private Eye tells us that the Parole Board are furious with Grayling for implying it was their fault that so-called 'skullcracker' was moved to a Cat D open prison, when in fact the enquiry he ordered has found it was his own public protection department that specifically excluded the Board's involvement.

We learn that the MoJ are trying to prevent news of prison disturbances becoming public knowledge and that prisoners were on the roof of HMP Dartmoor in sunny weather on 19th June. Apparently Grayling is furious to discover that they were offered sun cream by staff according to this BBC report :-

"The MoJ said sun cream was offered as part of a duty of care but declined by the prisoners."

There's an interesting piece on the website about risk registers that must make Grayling a little nervous too:- 
Iain Duncan Smith's latest effort to prevent the publication of documents warning of the dangers of universal credit has been dismissed by a judge.
You can see the desperation quite clearly now. IDS' team are throwing any old legal argument at the wall to see if it will stick. The judge's casual dismissal of the arguments seems to show a flicker of resentment at having to hear them at all.
Basically, this is IDS' worst nightmare: documentary evidence of the problems his department imagined universal credit could have, the scale of the problems which eventually transpired, and proof of whether they deliberately misled the public about the progress of the programme.
Finally, somewhat surprisingly the FT in a recent editorial questioned the whole business of outsourcing some functions of the state:-
"British governments of all political colours have been too promiscuous about transferring activities to the private sector. Not every public service lends itself to going private. The powers invested in the state for sensitive services such as prisons can never be adequately captured in a contract, and should not be supplied by private contractors. The government must control its temptation to outsource on all fronts. The rush to outsource the probation service is a case in point."
A pretty strong message there then, and not from the usual suspects like the Guardian either, but from the Financial Times! 

Friday 27 June 2014

More Mutual News

With final bids having to be in by Monday, the following email gives a bit more of the background to the collapse of the bid involving the Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside mutual :-

Transforming Rehabilitation bid update

Date: Thursday, 26 June, 2014

With great disappointment, The Manchester College (TMC) and Innovo CLM have now reached a point where we are unable to pursue our bid in the Transforming Rehabilitation competition any further.

Over the last ten days we have brought together the key final elements of the bid and overlaid the legal warrants and guarantees required. The outcome of this activity brought us to a ‘go/no go’ decision on the final bid this week.

Back in October we agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Innovo CLM to jointly bid for the Transforming Rehabilitation work in Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria. There were a number of key principles set out in our ways of working. These were, that we wanted (after repayment of the working capital from TMC), to have a joint venture company split 51%/49% (TMC/Innovo CLM). We were also clear that we wanted the joint venture to operate along the lines of a staff mutual and the profits in time could be used to re-invest into the communities we serve. This meant a very high quality offer that allowed staff and stakeholder engagement in many areas.

The requirements at the time were that TMC would fund circa £4m of investment and needed to offer a deed of guarantee of circa £16m. Innovo CLM would bring their experience and development of the service, coupled with TMC’s experience of working with offenders in custody. Our working assumption was that we would not run the contract very aggressively like many private providers do, but that there would be at least sufficient profit opportunity to offset any possible risks.

In recent weeks it has become clear that changes to legal clauses could mean unlimited costs on the joint venture and its backers. In addition, the maximum cap for penalties developed to a point where that could be as high as £36m. What became very clear last week was that TMC would need to guarantee £36m of annual risk. Our board and our banks felt that the balance of risk and reward had shifted very considerably in recent weeks and that TMC would be shouldering far more risk as part of the joint venture than the original MOU had suggested.

To try to move the bid forward we considered a number of options, including, finally, a route which would alter the level of risk and control on the contract and on the joint venture in a way that could satisfy our financial backers. As a result, TMC put to Innovo CLM an ownership and profit share proposal at 80%/20% and outlined that our Board would also require us to have been able to negotiate on the legal points during due diligence.

Innovo CLM have advised that they have shared this proposal with their staff and stakeholders who understandably, felt that for them, this would be a significant departure from the original MOU and was a move away from the principles of a staff mutual.

As a result, on Tuesday this week, we realised that we could not find a way to move forward with a bid that our respective boards could approve or that our banks would warrant in case of loss. We have today announced the decision to the Ministry of Justice.

John Thornhill

Chairman, Innovo Rehabilitation
CEO, The Manchester College

Meanwhile, I notice that the following information on the London mutual RISE written by Dean Rogers, Napo Assistant General Secretary, has been circulated to staff:- 

What is a Mutual?
RISE is proposed as a mutual. Not all mutuals are the same or work in the same way, although most mutuals would aim to follow the Rochdale Co-Operative principles in some form – critically meaning input into important decision making from all members and potentially wider stakeholders (e.g. client groups); profit sharing between members (although many mutuals will consider themselves to be non-profit making bodies); and a high focus on ethical practice and values.

In RISE all transferring staff would have an opportunity (but could not be forced to) become members. Membership would be free, with the opportunity to join and participate in the decision making processes coming as part of working for RISE. Future employees would automatically be enrolled. Should RISE expand beyond London any new employees would also have the opportunity to join and participate. The leadership of RISE would propose its initial Constitution, setting out how it would be run and be accountable to members, with rules for how the Constitution could be changed by members in future; what should happen to profits; how salaries would be negotiated and structures for member engagement and consultation. Members would have to approve the initial Constitution. All terms and conditions at the point of transfer would be the same under TUPE but some softer aspects (like union recognition) could change by member agreement almost immediately in a mutual. However, RISE have indicated they want to recognise and work closely with Napo, as well as honouring key terms agreed as part of the National Transfer Agreement.

In Reality.....
In practice RISE will be a small player with relatively little spare capital for speculative adventures around pay or conditions. Nor will it have any great HR capacity. We anticipate this is part of why it is being positive and open about recognising Napo and is indicating it would want members of RISE to join the union.

RISE would also be further bound by the terms of the contract with NOMS via the prime provider, both in relation to terms and conditions of employment for members and to a degree frontline practice in that key performance priorities will need to be met for RISE to get paid and meet the terms of the contract. Whilst contractors may expect RISE to deliver work cheaply (to maximise the Prime’s scope for profit) RISE will need to retain staff and perform to high standards to meet NOMS requirements and triggers for payment by results (PbR) targets. The PbR is most likely to be where any potential RISE profit and scope for RISE to expand rests.

This is most likely to mean that little collectively changes in terms of pay, pensions, and wider terms and conditions at least initially. Concerns identified about individual flexibility or support for training and development will partly be met by TUPE. Afterwards it can be met by a combination of individual negotiations and/or collective assertion via members proactively taking a collective position to the Board, potentially supported and advised by Napo.

What is TUPE / COSOP? How does it protect transferring staff? 
Many questions have been asked around the nature of any transfer into RISE and what protections are genuinely (as opposed to theoretically) afforded staff in scope if RISE comes into existence. As ever in any privatisation the strength of TUPE is directly linked to the collective strength and unity of staff transferring to defend terms and protect them for new starters, as well as the economic reality around the contract. Any prime will seek to drive down costs, especially when letting work through 2nd tier providers. We can expect pressure to be exerted on RISE to either cut terms (for new starters if not existing staff) or posts. However, within a mutual staff members have a stronger say in how RISE respond , supported further by recognition for Napo.

It could also be argued that potentially, especially in a market where recruiting and retaining good quality staff is difficult RISE may even be able to get a bigger share of the cake and improve terms and conditions. This is what’s happened in the rail industry where Aslef and the RMT have exploited a shortage in trained staff and the public’s reliance on their service to drive up wages, etc. Equally, members could vote to simplify pay structures and increase transparency. However, with very tight budgets and Government under-investment likely to continue the starting point is likely to be more difficult times ahead regardless of how the share sale rolls forward. RISE can’t lose money or members risk not getting paid or losing their jobs and will be directly engaged in making these decisions to some extent.

What about future employees joining RISE? 
Future employees will almost certainly be automatically enrolled as RISE members upon joining, as a contractual expectation, although it is plausible that any additional benefits (e.g. voting rights, loyalty payments, etc ) maybe linked into service. Generally, it is more difficult to force a two-tier workforce into a mutual as everyone has equal voting rights. However, if management win the argument this can still happen on key policies – e.g. in John Lewis they have a two tier redundancy and pension scheme.

It is possible that RISE will seek to offer different terms and conditions for members in London if it expands outside of Capital to recognise higher costs of living and recruitment difficulties in London. It would need to do so in a clear, accountable, fair and transparent way or be left vulnerable to equal pay challenges. E.g. it couldn’t justify higher wages for staff in London doing essentially similar work based upon grade differences.

If regional bids emerge, as we think is probable, this area becomes even more complicated as the cost of living around London is also disproportionately high if not as high as the rest of the UK.

How could RISE fail?
RISE can fail in numerous ways. It can fail even before coming into existence if it is not part of a winning consortia for a CRC contract. It is feasible that RISE could be named as a potential partner in a winning bid for an area outside London but not in London itself. In this instance London staff would not transfer to RISE.

Moving forward RISE could fail by making a consistent loss that funding partners become unwilling to sustain. If RISE were to lose it’s capacity to borrow to fund paying staff, etc then it could dissolve and staff would then transfer again, either to the prime bidder or to another provider if the work was sublet. In this circumstance TUPE should remain in place again, although again the strength of the guaranteed rights will be directly linked to collective organisation and unity.

One particular worry for charities and small organisations in the contract is the likelihood that primes will pay RISE out of the PbR money, based upon result. This is hugely problematic as the PbR money isn’t guaranteed and only comes on stream after 3 years into the contract being operational. RISE maybe better placed to sustain this as a mutual being set up with funders understanding this reality, as opposed to charities competing for similar work but having to use reserves.

If RISE went bust members will not be individually liable, unless they choose to be so by adapting the RISE constitution. Nor do you lose or change any other employment rights by being a member of a mutual.

What happens to me if RISE isn’t successful?
If RISE don’t win in London you will either be transferred into the prime or whoever they let the work to instead of RISE. The National Agreement Napo has won protects you in the first instance in either scenario but the risks (e.g. job cuts and pressure to accept cuts; rise of a second tier workforce, etc) are also the same.

What choices do I have?
If the work you are doing is transferred to RISE or another company you have a false choice – resign or accept a transfer with TUPE protecting terms and conditions at the point of transfer, supported further by the terms of the national Agreement covering pensions, continuity of service and initial redundancy terms. You will not have a right to transfer into another CRC job unless this can be negotiated between RISE and the prime bidder in a situation where RISE needed to make staff cuts.

Grayling Wasting Money

Whilst I was out and about yesterday delivering the prize to the lucky millionth-hit winner, there's been a lot of talk about how much tax payers money Chris Grayling is wasting. It was all triggered by the latest report from the justice Affairs Committee and the essence of the argument summed up here in the Independent:-
Cash being used to build jails to hold the burgeoning prison population should be switched into preventing vulnerable people becoming caught up in crime in the first place, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is warned today by MPs.
In a damning assessment of the Ministry of Justice’s priorities, they urge the Treasury to investigate whether taxpayers’ money is being used effectively to reduce crime. The cash could be better spent on support for first-time single parents, as well as schemes helping people with mental health and alcohol problems, the Commons Justice select committee said. It also questioned how much credit the Government can take from continuing falls in crime rates.
In a report published today, the committee said violent crime, 44 per cent of which is drink-related, costs Britain almost £30bn a year, while drug-related crime costs £13.3bn and crime committed by people with behavioural problems as children costs £60bn. It contrasted the huge bills with the relatively small amounts spent on schemes such as family nurse partnerships, a programme of help for teenage single parents. The committee called for more funding to be allocated to mental health services – the “inadequacy of which costs the police, courts, probation, and prisons and victims of crime greatly” – and protested that alcohol treatment remained a “Cinderella service” both in prison and the community. 
Sir Alan Beith, its chairman, said the amounts given to such initiatives were tiny compared with spending on prisons and the “staggeringly high costs to society of crime”. The committee accused ministers of shying away from using the programme of cuts to the criminal justice system to reevaluate where and how taxpayers’ money is spent. MPs said they could not establish whether the ministry and the Treasury had examined the case for diverting money earmarked for prison-building to other schemes. They called for a “Government-wide approach which recognises more explicitly that the criminal justice system is only one limited part of the system through which taxpayers’ money is spent to keep people safe”.
Politicians are urged to tone down their “hardline rhetoric” about crime for fear they could “inappropriately influence” sentencers and demoralise professionals working with offenders. The media is also challenged to promote a “more rational debate on criminal justice”.
The theme was picked up by this post on the website:-

Grayling's tough justice is as expensive as it is useless

We know Chris Grayling's 'hang-em-and-flog-em' approach to crime doesn't work. Now we are starting to see how much it costs.

The prisons are stuffed full of more and more people, the conditions inside getting worse all the time - partly as a matter of policy. Grayling pays eye-watering fines for each new inmate he adds to overcrowded private prisons.

The need to cut costs could have been an opportunity to think differently about how to do rehabilitation. Instead Grayling has retreated into a Dickensian penal policy - the equivalent of an old general reading the Telegraph with his breakfast and spluttering about political correctness.

A justice committee report published today showed MPs are running out of patience with the Ministry of Justice's lack of interest in evidence-based policy or value for money. MPs on the committee went to Texas and found a political consensus. In this bastion of liberalism, they found agreement that there needed to be a plan to limit the growth of, and ultimately reduce, the prison population - primarily for financial reasons.

MPs, like so many before them who looked at the evidence, called for an increased use of community sentences.

'The committee concludes that a prison system which effectively rehabilitates a smaller number of offenders, while other offenders are rehabilitated through robust community sentences, has the potential to bring about a bigger reduction in crime," MPs found.

The finding is unlikely to trouble Grayling, because evidence plays little role in his view of the world. As MPs found, "ministers appear to have taken steps to increase their understanding of crime trends only at a relatively late stage in this parliament". They called on the government to "recognise more explicitly where reoffending has fallen and seek to understand why".

Saving public money is apparently the entire raison d'etre of this government, but while Grayling bleeds cash with his overstuffed prisons, there's no investigation of how to spend taxpayer money most effectively.

Committee chair Alan Beith said:
"Although crime has been falling, the extent to which this can, in practice, be attributed to national or local crime reduction policies is unclear. We do not have the right structures in place to provide a collective memory of research evidence, its relative weight, and its implications for policy making, including the best direction of resources, and we call on the government to create an independent and authoritative body to facilitate this."
MPs even bother to lay out some price tags. What if just some of the resources earmarked for new prison development could be used on early intervention techniques? The savings could be significant.

For example, each year:
  • Violent crime, 44% of which is alcohol related, costs almost £30 billion
  • Crime perpetrated by people who had conduct problems in childhood costs around £60 billion.
  • Drug related crime costs £13.3 billion.
  • Anti-social behaviour related to alcohol abuse costs £11 billion
On the other hand, the costs of preventative investment 'further upstream' are relatively small:
  • Evidence based parenting programmes cost about £1,200 per child.
  • It's estimated that drug treatment prevented 4.9 million offences in 2010-11, saving approximately £960 million.
But taking this sort of far-sighted attitude - for instance by embedding alcohol dependence and mental health services in the criminal justice system - requires a more cerebral secretary of state than the one currently occupying the Ministry of Justice. There's little chance of any change of course now - no matter how much it costs the taxpayer.

Grayling was put in post to placate the tabloids. And this is what you get if you do the tabloids' bidding on criminal justice: wasted public money and ineffective policy.

On top of all this we still don't know how much the TR omnishambles is costing, but estimates put it at around £150 million so far.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Setting the Record Straight

I've said on a number of occasions that one aim of this blog is to provide an audit trail so that future historians or other interested parties can set the whole TR omnishambles in context and apportion appropriate blame when it all inevitably goes 'Pete Tong'. 

I wonder how many brave souls there are left around at the Probation Association and that signed-off this remarkable final two-fingered gesture to Chris Grayling and his TR omnishambles? Appropriately entitled 'A Parting Shot - The Questions Remain', this soberly-worded document goes into some fine detail in setting the record straight as to exactly what went on behind the scenes and goes a long way to confirming what a thoroughly unpleasant man Mr Grayling is. 

So, the dog finally barked! The following extracts give a flavour of the valedictory, including this little gem, 'The interface between the PA and the MoJ was considerably more taxing than that between PA and the unions', and concludes with some extremely salient questions that remain to be answered:-  


The National Negotiating Council and the Standing Committee for Chief Officer Grades have existed for some considerable time as the national negotiating machinery for pay and conditions of service for probation staff. Members (Trust Chairs) of PA form the Employers’ Side. Before the publication of the Strategy paper on 9 May 2013, and in the growing realisation that MoJ was approaching the future implementation of change as though probation Trust staff were direct employees of MoJ/NOMS, the Chairman of PA wrote to Ministers to point out the necessity of respecting the national negotiating machinery in the delivery of change affecting Trust staff. This was recognised by Ministers and the NNC and SCCOG worked from August 2013 through to January 2014 to deliver a National Agreement on Staff Transfer and Protections.

Alongside this negotiating machinery, the MoJ established a forum for discussion with employers and trade unions on issues affecting staff but falling outside the remit of NNC
and SCCOG. 

The course of these negotiations, consultations and discussions in the compressed timetable allowed was demanding in the extreme, involving residential sessions, almost weekly negotiating/consultation meetings and with constant email and telephone traffic in between.

The interface between the PA and the MoJ was considerably more taxing than that between PA and the unions, and, as will be seen from the Joint Secretaries’ circulars issued during these negotiations, it was the issues over which the employers did not have discretion but were reliant on the approach by MoJ that proved the eventual sticking points.

Although MoJ did make considerable concessions in the negotiations, time – as determined by the Justice Secretary’s timetable for Transforming Rehabilitation - was insufficient to secure the agreement of all parties. 

In November 2013 NOMS/MoJ decided to issue to Trusts a National Framework on Staff Transfer and Protections, much of which replicated the unagreed documentation being negotiated through the NNC and SCCOG and which included a pre-transfer staff assignment process based on the one being discussed with the unions, though with its own significant adaptations. 

There followed a critical week, which coincided with the week referred to above in the context of the revised risk register.
  • An NNC/SCCOG meeting already scheduled to take place a few days after MoJ’s decision to impose its Framework and assignment process held the prospect of securing an agreement on the texts that had been under discussion. The PA secured an undertaking from MoJ that if there were agreement, the negotiated agreement would supersede the framework imposed by MoJ but clearly agreement would be less likely if Trusts had started to implement the MoJ scheme. 
  • PA asked Trusts to report on their reactions to the MoJ’s action and compilations of these reports were circulated to all member Trusts, so that each could see the approach being taken by others. PA held a teleconference with member Trusts to share views, in particular on the legality of MoJ’s action. Trusts co-operated with the request from PA to restrict themselves only to preparatory work in order to keep the possibility of a negotiated agreement alive. 
  • Unfortunately notification by MoJ – later largely withdrawn – on the day of the meeting of some aspects of the agreement that were not acceptable meant that substantive discussion was timed out and agreement was not reached. 
  • The subsequent advice from the PA Board to Trusts was then that, while the absence of a negotiated assignment process was regrettable, they should continue with implementation of the MoJ assignment process, and the NNC and SCCOG agreed to exclude the arrangements for assignment from its negotiations. A National Agreement, which secured significant protections for staff, was ratified by both bodies in January 2014. 
This above account does not adequately reflect the tireless and critically important role played by PA on the substance of the discussions, in the hammering out of future HR and employment arrangements for probation staff during this period, acting as a central source of expertise on probation terms and conditions, relied on by all concerned and indefatigably working through the minutiae of necessary transfer provisions.

Questions for the future

The Probation Association is departing the scene at the point at which implementation of the reforms will start to bite in operational terms. As the MoJ itself says, there will be a period of transition in which teething problems can be expected. It is too early to judge the impact of the reforms but, for the benefit of future commentators, we lay down the following as questions to which we, had we been continuing as an organisation, would have been interested to know the answers:

  • By how much have the reforms reduced re-offending? The Justice Secretary has indicated that no great change from current patterns should be expected, though the current and steadily declining rate of re-offending by those under probation supervision since 2000 has been held up as a failure of the current probation arrangements. 
  • Has the CRC bidding process proved successful in funding the provision of services, across all of England and Wales, to those with sentences of less than 12 months leaving prison? This extension of service is the great prize of the reforms. How effective are those services in reducing re-offending? 
  • How significant is Payment by Results in the new arrangements, or are the contracts really block payments with a bit of a reward added on? The use of PbR was, of course, always the reason given for not allowing Trusts to bid for contracts.
  • In addition to the declared costs, how much have the reforms really cost across the piece to implement? Staff time in the TR team and NOMS, conferences and meetings, staff time in the Trusts, secondments from Trusts to the Programme, interim appointments, the use of consultants, IT changes, communications, signage. 
  • What are the additional costs of managing and monitoring contracts (in the light of recent contract failures eg on electronic monitoring)? 
  • Could the cost of the reforms have been realised and used to fund an equivalent provision of services to the under 12 months’ cohort, without having the disruption and risk to services and performance caused by the TR reforms? Trusts certainly believed so – and some were already delivering the services, in partnership with PCCs and others, before Transforming Rehabilitation was published. 
  • Are the CRCs any more liberated than Trusts could have been and wanted to be? 
  • Has the NPS been able to sustain managing the exclusively high risk caseload? 
  • Was the management of offenders jeopardised by the changes at any point? What has happened on performance overall? 
  • What has been the effect on staff professionalism, morale and motivation in the longer term? 
  • Was it necessary to go through everything that the system has gone through over the past year to achieve what has in fact been achieved? What would a retrospective cost benefit analysis show?
PS Just for the historical record, this blog was finally acknowledged by the PA last week when they uniquely joined the PCA and Probation Institute in re-tweeting my piece on Sue Hall's Cambridge speech. Recognition at last, if somewhat late in the day! 

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Madness, Sheer Madness

Here's the latest from the NorthWest - a statement from Annette Hennessy & Kevin Robinson, CEO's of Merseyside and Cumbria/Lancashire CRC's

"As you know we have always aimed to bring you the latest news and developments within the TR agenda as soon as possible.
Yesterday we were formally informed that The Manchester College were unsure about continuing with the competition bid to deliver probation services across Cumbria Lancashire & Merseyside, which needs to be submitted by this Monday 30th June. We understand this decision is due to concerns around the commercial and legal terms within the contract. Innovo are in a joint venture and therefore cannot submit an independent bid.
We understand that negotiations with The Manchester College have come to an end, although Innovo are still in discussions with the MOJ. Due to the ethical wall we are not aware of what is being discussed at the moment, but we expect Innovo will release a statement asap.
It is important everyone acknowledges the hard work that Geri Byrne-Thompson, Dave Christian, David Beddow and all those involved have done, and continue to do to get to the final bid stage. This late decision by The College is a huge disappointment for the Innovo team and we would ask you to give them your support for the excellent work they have done to date.
Ultimately, the CRCs are still in the same position of preparing our businesses for share sale and whilst this is very disappointing news it is only with your continued support, motivation and professionalism that we will be able to continue building our CRCs to make sure whoever wins the competitions get a top performing organisation. We will continue delivering the good work we have done so far and not forget our values of why we are here, to work with our service users to change their lives, reduce re-offending and protect the public."
"Ultimately, the CRCs are still in the same position of preparing our businesses for share sale"

In relation to running a public service involved in supervising and rehabilitating offenders and protecting the public, doesn't this statement sound utterly ridiculous and surreal? 

PS Actually, since publishing this, I've been thinking about it in the queue at the chippy. How can CEO's sleep at night having spouted crap like this and that goes counter to everything probation stands for? Were they ever proper probation officers? Is this comment true?

'Can anyone confirm that the CEO of the Lancashire CRC stated in an event that probation had been doing it wrong for 100 years and now it was time to do it right?'

Omnishambles Update 54

I find it interesting that on the day of the great austerity march that went virtually unreported by the mainstream media, this article appeared in the Telegraph giving a very clear message as to what the Tories feel about public services and their employees:-  
Hundreds of thousands of civil servants and other government employees are facing the sack under sweeping Tory plans to cut back the state, The Telegraph can disclose.
Ministers are drawing up radical measures, to be announced in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, which will see widespread privatisations and at least one million public sector workers removed from the government payroll by the end of the decade. The Treasury has now ordered the Cabinet Office to prepare an “ambitious” new programme of efficiency savings stretching deep into the next parliament after the 2015 election. It comes as new laws are announced to force future governments to reduce red tape for businesses, and a fresh assault is launched on “fat cat” public officials’ pay.
In an article for The Telegraph, Matthew Hancock, the business minister and one of Mr Osborne’s closest allies, declares that government must “get out of the way” to allow companies to thrive. A new Small Business Bill will set down in law new targets for reducing the amount of regulations that shopkeepers and other small businesses have to comply with.
"We are on track to be the first government in modern times to reduce the burden of regulation on business. Our 'one in, two out' rule ensures that the burden of regulation keeps falling. Now we will put the deregulation target into the law entrenching the need for government to reduce their burden on business," Mr Hancock said.
In a separate move, Eric Pickles, the Local Government secretary, will also step up his assault on “exorbitant” salaries for public officials this week, ordering councils to share senior executives across local authorities and stamp out high pay deals. The Conservative effort to roll back the state comes after worse than expected economic figures showed that government borrowing rose last month. A succession of positive reports from economists reinforced the message that Britain is returning to strong growth.
However, Mr Osborne has also warned voters that the economy is not yet safe and the Tories are expected to argue in next year’s election campaign that they should be allowed to finish the job rather than letting Labour put the recovery at risk.
The budget deficit is forecast to continue until at least 2018, requiring public spending restraint well beyond the general election. Ministers have been told that the government workforce will fall by about one million between 2011 and 2019. At a rate of 36,000 per quarter, this is the equivalent of sacking one state employee every four minutes, every day, for the next five years.
At a meeting in Whitehall earlier this month, Mr Osborne told officials: “We’ve made excellent progress and have now shown that we can deliver savings and reforms year after year. But there’s still more to do. There’s a job to finish.” He said he wanted “an ambitious new efficiency programme” to deliver savings “across the next Parliament” and to be announced in time for the Autumn Statement later this year. “We know we need to spend taxpayers’ money responsibly,” he said.
A senior government source said the public would be urged to back further spending cuts at the next election with a simple message that Britain’s soaring debts require everyone to tighten their belts further. “What we've done so far has been presented as radical but it's actually been pretty incremental - we haven't been reinventing the wheel,” the source said.
“We want to go further. It's like a firm cutting overheads - no leading organisation ever stops looking for efficiencies and the civil service shouldn't be any different.” The reforms are expected to see more government offices privatised and turned into “public service mutuals”, which are owned by their staff, but funded by private sector payments rather than the taxpayer.
The “digitisation” of services will also put more government functions online, reducing the number of civil servants on the state payroll. 
Now given that as far as I understand the privatisation of public services is hugely unpopular with the public, the Tories making it clear that sacking a million public servants will be a key plank of their election manifesto means the other parties must respond and say what their positions are on this issue. It looks to me as if plenty of blue water is opening up in order to give the electorate a real choice come May next year.

And talking of 'outsourcing' public services, I see the Public and Commercial Service's Union are striking over the plans to privatise the MoJ 'shared services' that probation colleagues in NPS are currently trying to get to grips with:-
PCS members in two MoJ 'shared services' centres who work in payroll, personnel and finance covering the courts, prison services and Home Office face being handed over to a new company called Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), set up last autumn to take on similar work for the Department for Work and Pensions and Defra.
SSCL is 75% owned by French multinational Steria, with the government retaining 25%. Months after winning the contract the company announced plans to halve the number of UK staff doing the work and close three offices by October 2014, at the same time as taking on 200 more jobs in India.
When the Cabinet Office first published its shared services strategy, it stated the MoJ would continue to operate a standalone centre. Staff learned out of the blue late last year this had been abandoned, with no explanation.
The union believes the Cabinet Office has pushed the privatisation of shared services, despite the fact it is likely to lead to job losses, with work and personal and financial data being handled overseas. This goes against previous ministerial commitments to keep government contracts in the UK and the prime minister's recent pledge to "reshore" jobs, the union says.
The union's 400 members in the MoJ shared services centres in Newport, south Wales, and Bootle, in Merseyside, will strike next Monday 30 June after voting 93% for action on a 47% turnout.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The government is using shared services as just another way to cut civil service jobs, by privatising and sending work overseas.
"Not only does this threaten the security of sensitive personal and financial information, it is a cynical exploitation of the inferior pay and employment conditions of workers in other countries."
Sign the petition to stop offshoring our jobs and data
Email your MP to ask them to support our campaign to save our shared services.
I also notice that there are increasing signs of discontent with the BBC and its utter failure to adequately report important events such as Saturday's austerity march. Good old 38 degrees have a petition running with over 8,000 signatures and it can be found here.

no more austerity

This from the Guardian:-

Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.
An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.
"The people of this building [the House of Commons] generally speaking do not represent us, they represent their friends in big business. It's time for us to take back our power," said Brand.
"This will be a peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution and I'm very grateful to be involved in the People's Assembly."
"Power isn't there, it is here, within us," he added. "The revolution that's required isn't a revolution of radical ideas, but the implementation of ideas we already have."
A spokesman for the People's Assembly, which organised the march, said the turnout was "testament to the level of anger there is at the moment".
He said that Saturday's action was "just the start", with a second march planned for October in conjunction with the Trades Union Congress, as well as strike action expected next month.
People's Assembly spokesman Clare Solomon said: "It is essential for the welfare of millions of people that we stop austerity and halt this coalition government dead in its tracks before it does lasting damage to people's lives and our public services."
Sam Fairburn, the group's national secretary, added: "Cuts are killing people and destroying cherished public services which have served generations."
Activists from the Stop The War Coalition and CND also joined the demonstration.
The crowds heard speeches at Parliament Square from People's Assembly supporters, including Caroline Lucas MP and journalist Owen Jones. Addressing the marchers, Jones said: "Who is really responsible for the mess this country is in? Is it the Polish fruit pickers or the Nigerian nurses? Or is it the bankers who plunged it into economic disaster – or the tax avoiders? It is selective anger."
He added: "The Conservatives are using the crisis to push policies they have always supported. For example, the sell-off of the NHS. They have built a country in which most people who are in poverty are also in work."
The People's Assembly was set up with an open letter to the Guardian in February 2013. Signatories to letter included Tony Benn, who died in March this year, journalist John Pilger and filmmaker Ken Loach.
In the letter, they wrote: "This is a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government.
"The assembly will provide a national forum for anti-austerity views which, while increasingly popular, are barely represented in parliament."
The Metropolitan police refused to provide an estimate. A police spokesman said the force had received no reports of arrests.
A spokesman for the prime minister declined to comment.
Meanwhile, I saw this on facebook, giving further indication as to just how well the bidding process is going and especially the much-lauded involvement of the third sector:-
"Received an email from a manager today informing us that Momentis & Homegroup have withdrawn from the bidding for Derbyshire Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire & Rutland CRC, apparently they're no longer happy with the financial risk following the MOJs changing the contract criteria several times, they are however still possibly interested in the tier 2 bidding."
Finally, following on from their weekend special pullout supplement on the state of the criminal justice system, in which Harry Fletcher was quoted extensively, I see that the Daily Mirror have the bit firmly between their teeth and are following the probation privatisation story quite closely:-