Wednesday 31 October 2018

Women and Prison

Yesterday the Justice Committee took evidence from a number of people, including Dr Kate Paradine CEO of the charity Women in Prison. This from Huffington Post:-
Investing In Ending Women's Reoffending Would Save Money - And Families

Investing in solutions that will ensure that women and their children are supported to break the vicious cycle of offending, saving millions to the public purse in the process

Today, I am giving evidence to MPs on the Justice Select Committee who are investigating the unprecedented crisis in our prisons and what can be done about it over the next five years.

I am keen to convey the overwhelming evidence showing that prison doesn’t work and that a change of approach is needed. It fails to deliver justice or reduce re-offending and increases trauma and harm to some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens.

Most of the 3,800 women in prison (5% of the overall prison population) have been victims of violence and abuse as children or adults. A third grew up in care. The vast majority are serving short sentences for low level non-violent offences, mostly theft (including shoplifting) – usually linked to mental ill health, substance misuse, poverty and domestic violence. Women are often a family’s primary carer and in nine out of 10 cases when a mother goes to prison her children will have to leave home to live with relatives or go into the care system.

The Government’s new ‘Female Offender Strategy’ reflects some of the blueprint for change set out in Baroness Jean Corston’s ground-breaking 2007 report. The strategy includes a welcome end to plans to build new women’s prisons and a commitment to reduce the women’s prison population by focussing on diversion and community alternatives to custody.

At the heart of delivering the strategy sit a network of local women’s centres providing services to address the root causes of offending – mental ill health, domestic violence, substance misuse, debt and homelessness. In Manchester, such services have helped to reduce imprisonment of women by 35%. A recent evaluation shows that for every £1 spent on women’s centres, £4.68 is saved in other areas of public spending.

The strategy could mark the beginning of a long-term cross-party plan to drastically reduce re-offending, whilst saving millions of pounds spent on counterproductive and harmful prison sentences. If a national network of women’s centres delivering holistic services was funded to demonstrate its effectiveness – a similar model could be rolled out to reduce the male prison population and to tackle high rates of men’s re-offending.

However, the desperate reality for such centres suggests that we are a long way from making this a reality. The disastrous ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reforms that privatised the probation service and brutal cuts to public services have taken their toll on women’s centres. Those that have managed to remain open endure an unsustainable ‘hand to mouth’ existence, with staff routinely at risk of redundancy and services diminished or threatened with closure.

Aside from funding linked to tackling domestic violence, a pitiful £1.5million has been allocated over two years for running services linked to the government’s new strategy across England and Wales. This compares to £342million additional funding found for private companies delivering the failed reforms to the probation service. It is despite the fact that millions were earmarked to build new women’s prisons, and many more millions will come from the sale of HMP Holloway – the women’s prison in London closed two years ago and now sitting empty on acres of valuable land.

The direct costs of women caught up in the criminal justice system largely fall to the Ministry of Justice and policing, but locking up women with complex needs is also a public health issue. Funding needs to come from across government departments to reflect the causes of, and solutions to, women’s offending. It is an affront to justice that where a woman lives influences whether or not she receives community support or a prison sentence and this postcode lottery needs to be urgently addressed.

Our shamefully high imprisonment rate, the highest in Western Europe, can only be reduced if we increase the confidence of police, the courts and the public in community alternatives to prison that deliver justice and address the causes of crime. Adequately funded women’s centres, offering proven constructive long-term solutions, working collaboratively with police, local authorities, health providers and probation, could have a central role in halving the women’s prison population by the next decade.

For the first time, a cross-party consensus exists that there is a more effective way to administer justice and that the answer to the catastrophe in our prisons, lies in our communities. What is needed now is urgent action: Investing in solutions that will ensure that women and their children are supported to break the vicious cycle of offending, saving millions to the public purse in the process.

Dr Kate Paradine 

Dr Kate Paradine is Chief Executive of the national charity Women in Prison. Kate has led various change initiatives in the public and charity sectors on issues including domestic abuse, child abuse, substance misuse and mental ill health including publishing national policy and strategy documents. She led the project to transfer staff and services from the National Policing Improvement Agency to the College of Policing and was previously National Quality Lead at CRI (now Change, Grow, Live). Kate has been chair of trustees for a group of women’s refuges and for national theatre company Clean Break.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Guest Blog 72

When the lights went off in Long Marsh

It’s day but like night, night in Long Marsh,
where once we did sing and chortle and flirt
there’s hardly a soul, not even young Bert
who’d have us in stitches wearing a skirt,
now it’s hush in the shade of the gloom in the rooms,
not even a squeak from the office chair castors
relieved of the weight of probation staff arses
no tales to be telling of ghastly disasters
from Yeovil or Taunton or Somerset pastures
no rustles of papers or clicking of staplers
no hum of a hard drive no creak of a door.

It was long hours we worked, lunch breaks were shirked
while we did what we could to help them -
out of work, or a marriage
or just out of drugs or just out of prison
or out of ideas and about to give up - they needed a lot
so we tried to explain you’ll have a much better time
when you stop doing crime and they’d listen

Oh that was back then, in twenty and ten, and out of the blue
came Grayling the Failing, with orders to ruin it.
Ruin it, shit on it, cut it to bits
(good training for later, when you get transport)
then we can sell it and stop spending money
on dubious characters who’ve broken the law
Send them to prison, take all their books,
I’d give them the birch, but that bloody EU,
Punish them properly, punish them hard, that’s how they’ll learn -
Who cares if they hates us? They’ll never vote Tory
and nor will probation - all gluten free lefties
with Guardian and teapots and wellingtons too

Back then! now just the ghost of solicitors’ visitors
and hark, is that Byron? no the wail of a siren
not likely you’d hear much poetry now
not here in the gloom of a fadeaway day,
no, here in Long Marsh there’s nothing to hear
not the berping of clients who’ve drunk too much beer
not the clinking of saucers with cups full of tea
just a feeling that everything’s lost and at sea
there’s nothing to hear and nothing to see
nothing to do and no one to be
all dust and ashes, just gone, vamoose
like a story once told, an old hoot from an owl
just a quick twit not even a twoo
just a hint of a whimper, but less than a whisper

O bring back young Bert and bring back his skirt
(the cross dressing flirt) bring back the cross lady
who shagged on the copier and got even stroppier
bring back the other one, the big one, the boss
whose absence now feels like a loss!
We used to do listening and hold people’s hands
and encourage them variously not to fuck up
but all that is gone, we cost too much money,
there was something wrong anyway,
you cannot have laughter, no not in the office,
so the monitoring now is all done remotely.

The thing with a tag is it’s 24/7 and fairly low cost
(depend on us always, G4S told us)
to fiddle the stats and would you believe it,
crime figures are dropping, and dropping some more
so thumbs up for prisons, gigantic if poss
we've been through the issues, all nicely debated,
get the scroats onto methadone, nicely sedated
and see how the crime has swiftly abated.
Now make sure the lights are all off if you please.

Thirteen years ago I was taken on as a counsellor to work with
Probation clients. I found myself with warm-hearted, expert and
dedicated colleagues. In various ways they sought to bring out the very
best in their clients and help them say goodbye to transgressive
lifestyles. They did a really good job - I should say we because I was
made to feel part of something important.

I detest the cheap and greedy vandals who messed it all up, woe unto
them, may cockroaches infest their kitchens and moths invade their
wardrobes and crabs .... I'd better stop there

Monday 29 October 2018

A Cause For Concern?

With news of the alarming increases in deaths both in prison and of people under probation supervision in the community, the role of the Prison and Probation Ombudsman comes into sharp focus, especially in light of a new appointment. The cynical might feel there could be cause for concern with the post being filled by an 'insider'. This from Rob Allen:-   

The Mystery of the Prison Ombudsman and the Justice Committee

The new Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), Sue McAllister started work yesterday. It’s an important role which had its origins in the Woolf Report into the 1990 Strangeways riot. Its remit has extended over time – it now adjudicates complaints from people on probation and immigration detention as well as prisoners. Since 2004 the PPO’s office has investigated all deaths in prisons, probation approved premises, immigration detention facilities and secure training centres.

The terms of reference for the post say that the PPO is appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice, following recommendation by the House of Commons Justice Select Committee. In this case, for some reason there has been no recommendation by the Justice Committee, at least not publicly.

There was a pre -appointment hearing on 17 July, just before the Parliamentary recess. Ms McAllister was given a good grilling over her use of social media and attitudes towards private prisons amongst other things. Committee Chair Bob Neill closed the hearing by saying “We will consider our report”. But there isn’t one.

According to the Liaison Committee (whose membership consists of the chairs of the House of Commons select committees) one of the purposes of pre-appointment hearings is “providing public reassurance…. that those appointed to key public offices have been selected on merit”. Another is “providing public evidence of the independence of mind of the candidate”. Maybe these purposes could be said to have been achieved by the hearing itself, the transcript of which is available for anyone to read. But it’s highly unusual for a Committee not to publish a view about whether a preferred candidate is appointable or not.

I have no reason to doubt Ms McAllister's capability to do the job- although in the future I do think there is a case for this post to be held - like the Chief Inspector post -by someone who has not worked for the Prison Service. The perception of independence is crucial.

And I do think the process of appointment should have been done properly. Maybe the Committee forgot about the report over the recess and hoped no one would notice. Or maybe they couldn’t agree. Whatever the case, failing to publish an opinion looks as if the MPs have not discharged their responsibility. Mr Neill should explain why.

Rob Allen


This from Wikipedia:-

Sue McAllister CB was the Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service between 2012 and 2016. She was the first woman to hold the post. Prior to this, she was Governor of HM Prison Gartree and HM Prison Onley.

Originally from South Yorkshire, Sue McAllister joined Her Majesty's Prison Service in England and Wales and worked for the service for 25 years. This included roles as the Governor of both HM Prison Gartree, an adult prison, and HM Prison Onley, a young offender institutions. McAllister was involved in the review team who investigated the suicide of Colin Bell, an offender under the care of the Northern Ireland Prison Service at HM Prison Maghaberry in 2008. The report was highly critical of the way in which his case was managed. She then worked in the Ministry of Justice as head of the Public Sector Bids Unit until she retired in 2012.

She was announced in May 2012 as the new head of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the first time a woman was named to this post, or a similar post elsewhere in the UK. McAllister replaced Colin McConnell, who had become head of the Scottish Prison Service. She took over the post in July 2012. In August 2016, she announced that she would be resigning from the post in October that year in order to retire. McAllister was named a Companion of the Bath in Queen Elizabeth II's 2017 New Years honours for services to the Northern Ireland Prison Service.


My sense of unease has not been helped by finding this on a blogsite from 2016:-

Sean Lynch, Sue McAllister and the prison ‘service’

Sometimes the action or inaction of authority isn’t as hard to take as their attitude to it. A prime case unfolded yesterday evening.

The source for what happened was impeccable: NI’s Prisoner Ombudsman. In a report, the Ombudsman tells of how Sean Lynch, a prisoner in Maghaberry, injured himself twenty times while prison staff watched this happen on a monitor but didn’t intervene. As a result of his self-harming, Sean Lynch is now blind.

Shocking indeed. But the interviews given by the director general of the prison service, Sue McAllister were equally or more shocking. Remember this is the person with whom the buck stops. Interviewers from first UTV and then the BBC asked her whether she found the conduct of prison staff in this instance shocking and if they shouldn’t be dismissed from their jobs.

Ms McAllister’s response: nothing to see here, move along please. The important thing was that the prison service should ponder on the event and learn from it.

EH? But had she considered an apology to the family of Sean Lynch? Again, Ms McAllister batted the question away. This was not a matter of responsibility or apologies; this was a matter of learning from this upsetting incident.

On Facebook and Twitter, a number of people were outraged by her stance and said it was shocking that she couldn’t bring herself to apologise for what had happened. I agree, except I think apology is going the wrong way. David Cameron apologized for what the Parachute Regiment inflicted on innocent Derry people in 1972: we killed fourteen people that day but honest, we’re sorry now. Agus sin é. There should be no focus on apology in this case. The focus should be on people whose duty was to protect those in their care and who brazenly didn’t even attempt to fulfill that duty.

As for Sue McAllister, the person at whose desk the buck stops: for her demonstrated incompetence and failure to appreciate the enormity of what occurred under her supervision, rather than an apology, a P45 with immediate effect might be in order.

If you don’t agree, maybe have a chat with the family of Sean Lynch would change your mind.

Jude Collins

Sunday 28 October 2018

Civil Service Woes Over Pay

As voting and discussion continue in relation to the NPS salary offer, it's interesting to see what's going on in the rest of the civil service. This from Civil Service World website:- 

Cabinet Office accused of ‘destroying trust’ over pay

The leaders of the civil service’s main unions have demanded an urgent meeting with cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill over the Cabinet Office’s handling of the current year’s pay settlement.

This week the FDA, Prospect, and the Public and Commercial Services Union learned they had been unsuccessful in a High Court challenge to the legality of the Treasury pay remit covering more than 400,000 civil servants that was published in June and set a 1%-1.5% average pay range for increases.

While their claim that there was insufficient consultation on the guidance was dismissed, the unions said documents released to the court had revealed behaviour on the part of the Cabinet Office that had “destroyed” their trust and confidence in officials.

The letter – signed by FDA general secretary Dave Penman, Prospect general secretary Mark Clancy, and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka – suggests that the 1%-1.5% band for increases was agreed as far back as March, and was seen as a way to “manage down expectations” among other pay review bodies.

According to the letter, information disclosed to the High Court suggested that the original pay-increase proposals for civil servants had included average rises of up to 2%. But the figure was downgraded to 1.5% after a February 22 meeting of the Civil Service Executive and signed off “days before” a March 29 meeting with unions.

The union leaders said the documents made it clear that ministers had been advised that the pay increases were likely to be the lowest in the public sector and would run contrary to staff expectations in the light of ministerial statements on higher awards being made to public sector workers, and may prompt industrial action.

“Despite all of this, seeking additional funding from the Treasury was ruled out,” they said. “It is clear that through omission and commission that we have been misled. This matter goes to the heart of the notion of trust and confidence. It is also now clear that whatever the expectations at a central level, departmental negotiations have also been a sham with departments rushing almost meaningless consultation to impose the 1.5% cap.”

Penman, Clancy and Serwotka said they needed an urgent meeting with Sedwill – who formally succeeded Sir Jeremy Heywood as cabinet secretary on Wednesday – to get answers on how the Cabinet Office could restore trust. “We have always sought to engage positively on behalf of members even in the face of the most difficult of circumstances,” they said.

“However, such engagement is only possible where there is a level of trust and confidence. That trust and confidence has been destroyed by the behaviours of the Cabinet Office over the pay remit guidance. The behaviours demonstrated would not be acceptable in the private sector and the civil service is the only area of the public sector where such an approach is adopted. Government should be an exemplar of good practice not bad.”


Here's the background to the story, again from the Civil Service World website:-

Trade union judicial review on civil service pay guidance dismissed

A trade union challenge to the government’s civil service pay remit has been dismissed after a court ruled that there was not insufficient consultation on the guidance, which set a 1%-1.5% average pay range for increases.

The FDA, Prospect and Public and Commercial Services unions have brought a judicial review of the Treasury pay remit that covers over 400,000 civil servants. The guidance was published on 25 June, and unions argued it was produced without adequate consultation.

Following the publication of the guidance in June – which allows for average pay awards of between 1% and 1.5% – unions challenged the pay regime on three grounds. These were: that they had a legitimate expectation of a formal consultation on the pay increase amount, referred to in court as the ‘X figure’; that there was a duty of sufficient inquiry that the government had not met; and that, even short of the statutory consultation, there was voluntary consultation on the pay proposal that was inadequate.

However, in her judgement published yesterday, Mrs Justice Simler said that all the challenges failed. The judgement highlighted that meetings were held in June in the build up to the publication of the guidance, but concluded that these did not amount to consultation.

“By letter dated 5 July 2018 the minister for the Cabinet Office wrote apologising ‘regarding the process around the publication of this year's pay remit’,” Simler notes. “I do not read this apology as an acknowledgement of any promise to consult. It seems to be a simple reference to perceived discourtesy shown in the process. Again, in light of all the evidence, this is not a basis for concluding that there was in fact a promise of consultation made by Mr Thomas [Mervyn Thomas, the executive director for employee and trade union relations at the Cabinet Office] on behalf of the defendant.”

On the second argument of on the duty for sufficient inquiry, Simler said that the pay guidance in general, and the 'X figure' in particular, effectively operates as a ‘cost control’ mechanism governing administrative arrangements between Treasury and departments/agencies, and setting a limit on annual average pay awards that can be made without departments needing to set out a business case.

Simler concluded that “the remit does not set the terms of service of civil servants (including the claimants’ members) or determine the pay award of any individual civil servant… Although the process may be onerous, nevertheless a business case can be advanced by any department to support a larger award.”

As a result, the judgement concluded “it was rational for Ministers to conclude that they could decide this question without seeking the claimants’ views on the X figure”.

The third element of the challenge also fell after the judge concluded that the process was not a formal consultation. The unions claimed “that the process adopted between March and June was in substance a consultation about the 2018 guidance and that included the X figure.”, and that the language used in these consultations was “incompatible with the defendant’s characterisation that it simply involved ‘the provision of information’ with any dialogue being limited to the expression of views but without any commitment to consider those views”.

However, Simler said “I do not accept these submissions” and concluded that the unions and the Cabinet Office were not embarked on a formal consultation. “My conclusion altered by the fact that the word “consultation” was used from time to time… The context of the email exchanges and discussions where the word consultation was used is inconsistent with its use by the defendant’s officials in that formal sense.”

Responding to the decision in their favour, a government spokesman said: “The government is pleased with this ruling which will allow departments to continue implementing the 2018 Pay Award for their employees without any further delays. Departments who have not already implemented the pay awards will continue to engage with local union representatives as usual. Cabinet Office officials have also invited national trade union representatives to discuss how the process of engagement on pay could be improved for next year and we look forward to working constructively with unions in the future.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that the result underlined the need for a return to national pay bargaining in the civil service.

“Only then can meaningful pay negotiations take place,” he said. “Evidence put forward to the court demonstrated that there is no effective mechanism in place that allows for the unions to collectively bargain on behalf of their members and that situation will not be tolerated by PCS.”

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “It is deeply disappointing that the court has not found in our favour – but what our legal challenge has flushed out is both revelatory and deeply damaging to the Cabinet Office. Whatever the result of the judicial review- we are not going away and will continue to argue for a fair deal for our members.”

Saturday 27 October 2018

Pick of the Week 54

It's been some time since we had a roundup of contributions, so here's my pick of the recent crop:-

"I had experienced the feeling of being part of a ‘lesser’ organisation in the eyes of those within the public sector Probation Service and saw how new staff were at times belittled by those they had previously shared offices with."

It was always structured thus. Grayling said so. He knew exactly what what he was doing & knew staff would run with it. He has form: "a management consultant with Burson Marsteller and then their European Marketing Director.... When helping its industry clients to escape environmental legislation or sprucing up the image of some of the most repressive governments on Earth, B-M brings to bear state of the art techniques in manipulating the mass media, legislators and public opinion."

"we have to let go of the past and look at how we can move forward and support those who are working in the ‘now’." From where I sit on the geological scale (probably late Triassic) it's not so much the 'not letting go' as the utter frustration, rage & total despair of watching everything that represented a 30 years career being rubbished & replaced AT VAST PUBLIC EXPENSE by vacuous soundbites from wealthy idiots who want to secure the wealth for themselves.

"CRC is a business - that’s what it’s about." Sound familiar? Back to early 2000's: "We are a law enforcement agency. It's what we are, it's what we do."

That showed the shift away from what had been largely a system of one-to-one rehabilitation and supervision of offenders by people with a social work background whose job was to understand all the factors that influence a person deciding to commit an offence. - Gordon Jackson, a branch official of the probation staff union Napo in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

This blog made me really sad - I work within a CRC and absolutely despise the way service users are used as "currency " and staff are made to feel that the only thing that is important is meeting ridiculous targets and not loosing the company money - It is unfortunate that there are plenty of other managers with the same attitude as Kelly Elliott and likely to have a massive influence not only on the new staff they're training but on TR2 - if I wanted to work for this kind of business I would have gone to Uni to study business and work for a company that actually remunerated me for meeting targets not bullied and oppressed me as the current CRC does.

The CRCs are indeed companies - the clue is in the name. Their reason for existence is to make profits and retain and renew their contracts to continue making profits. They care nothing about the probation profession but are prepared to say anything to inspectors to try to hoodwink them into believing they value professionalism. Kelly Elliot clearly believes that transitioning from a brainwashed CRC Manager to an an academic post that she is now able to objectively analyse her experiences. This is clearly not the case. She is herself the new breed of probation staff who passively swallows the corporate lies and narrative hook line and sinker regurgitating this on the pages of the PIs propaganda rag as if it is gospel. 

Her pride in a learner parroting the corporate line should be deeply disturbing. There is now an ever widening gulf emerging between the CRCs and the NPS who are now paid more and given professional status whereas private sector probation is being asset stripped and their workers deprofessionalised. It is a sorry state of affairs. Would NPS staff even bother to protest on behalf of staff in the CRCs? Some staff in the NPS do not even recognise their former colleagues as equivalent to them anymore. Witness the huge absence of solidarity when they received a pay settlement and CRCs weren’t even included because they are nothing to do with real probation.

I think it's important to keep abreast of what private companies with public service contracts are doing elsewhere and in the round. "CRC is a business - that’s what it’s about." That to me is quite a chilling statement, whether you work in probation or not. It is of course a statement of fact, but there's a lot embedded in that statement that needs pulling apart. Actually, it's an announcement that CRCs are no longer to be considered a public service at all. It's a business, and the focus going forward will be determined by a business model, not on service delivery or best practice.

Decisions will be taken to maximise profit and reduce costs because that's the most effective way for a business to operate. How that might be achieved and what it means for future service provision and employment rights should worry everyone. Qualifications, wages, pensions, caseloads, there's a million ways to squeeze for more profit. And where will probation services be in 5 or 10 years time? Will it be staffed by G4S security guard types earning national minimum wage? Service users being charged for attendance? Who knows, but I'd recommend that in the privatised probation world, staff should look at their employer in the same context as their most dodgy client. It's not the behaviour you see in the office that's important, it's what they're doing elsewhere that counts.

You are right, and that is what is so bizarre about the whole thing. If we rewind to what was/is the role of probation backalong, it was/is to implement Court Orders and support individuals that are subject to the criminal justice system - which is a statutory service delivered on behalf of the people, for the people to preserve fairness, and ensure an equal service to all. I remember attending preliminary meetings with potential charity stakeholders where the time was still very much that they were pitching to provide a similar 'in terms of the ethical starting point' service. The current bunch of providers were clearly wolves in sheep's clothing, with a takeover by stealth through the implementation of a n increasingly aggressive business model. The disconnect now between how it appeared to start (post split) and the statement ' the CRC is a business' is truly frightening.

"Let me be perfectly clear: the quantum amount of money available for this deal could never be enough to redress all of the injustices suffered by our members." Bullshit. There's always money in the Magic Money Tree.
  • There was enough to pay £80m to the 21 CRCs for EVR, but that was stolen by the privateers & Napo said not a dickie bird
  • There was enough money to pay CRCs a further £370m when they spat their dummies out
  • There was enough money to let the CRCs keep their fines
  • There's always enough money for IT & native clouds
  • There was enough money for MoJ bonuses
  • There was enough money for POA staff payrises
"When the Quantum of Solace stands at zero, you have to get away & save yourself" Fleming's words in the book 'You Only Live Twice' which inspired the more recent Bond movie. When everything you care about has been destroyed or no longer cares for you, it's time to get out & care for yourself.

Divide and rule.

I keep watching the Probation profession with great interest. Largely because it got under my skin and essentially mattered to me, the profession, my former colleagues, the people I sought to fundamentally help, justice, a belief that making a difference was not only possible but evidentially doable. I know there are stalwarts who still hold true to the cause. I think, however, my own faith has faltered for many reasons. Primarily it is because Probation as a collective endeavour does not make sense to me anymore. In consequence I find the prospect of putting myself back in the fray, unappealing, regardless of how many spondoolies are on offer at the end of the month.

Probation needs to make sense again, its reason for being firmly established. PR-ish sound bites are cosmetic. A deeper self perpetuating resonance for Probation needs to be established. In order to do that we need a Probation Service with a central voice, not disparate competing often conflicting interests. I will standby a while longer.


Why should you get good pay for being data input operatives?

Not a blog contribution, but I'll round this collection off with something I saw on Facebook recently:-

For those of us at the frontline ‘Getting on top of work’ doesn’t seem to be an option any more. If you show any signs of coping then work is piled on relentlessly. The obvious victims of increased bureaucracy are service users. Constant turnover and staff shortages mean that fire fighting is the norm rather than just holiday periods. Management Information and Monitoring Systems track your performance and smart workers just focus on the key targets as these are the things that can attract unwelcome attention if not met. It would be seen as an unreasonable target if managers were required to give workers adequate time to do quality casework rather than produce the appearance of quality casework.

Unless bureaucracy and caseloads are reduced to manageable levels and the Case Management and Assessment Systems we are compelled to use are designed to monitor less and assist more then there is no chance of being freed up enough to produce real ‘quality work’ that is likely to have a lasting impact.

I was asked the other day by a senior manager who did not have a probation background what I meant by ‘quality work’. It is an intriguing question in a time where some of those I regard as the best practitioners have either left or given up trying to produce quality work as many of those recently appointed as managers have never experienced or seen it in Probation. Some believe quality is entirely quantifiable and that the ideal probation worker is a robot devoid of feelings or clinical judgement/analysis relentlessly ticking boxes and filling forms. Quality work is certainly not about just meeting targets or ticking boxes.

There has always been a tension between seeing the punters and doing the paperwork. When I joined probation in 1987 there was a very simple and logical paper filing system and if this could be replicated electronically it would be more than sufficient to do the job with everything in one place. ‘People not paper’ was a mild complaint at the time. Present case management and assessment systems would do well to replicate those earlier paper files for minimalist efficiency.

Unfortunately there is no demonstration office (Probation lab) that Is available to test the effectiveness of either past, present, or future probation practice experiments. I really wish there was. Even when new software that costs millions is beta tested using real practitioners no particular effort is made to make enhancing practice the goal as those who are designing and testing it have only witnessed or ever done the job In one way and think that is ‘the way’. Those who have done it well in other ways are a dying breed and out of fashion. What is clear is that present systems are clunky cumbersome and neither effective or joined up. Regrettably we just plough on regardless entering data like automata.

David A Raho

Friday 26 October 2018

Yes or No to Pay Offer? 4

Seen on Facebook:-

I qualified as a PO in 2005. I Loved my job. Then TR hit and I was automatically placed with the CRC due to holding an IOM caseload. I am told we are not being considered for any type of pay rise in the foreseeable future. I have remained in NAPO since I started as a TPO but now wonder if it is right for those of us in this position. I am delighted for those of you in HMPPS. But please remember we are no longer all in the same boat.

Thing is you are better in the union than not. I’m considering a protest no vote as CRCs haven’t got this pay rise.

Katie Lomas I understand the frustration, we all feel it! Napo are working on CRC pay too, a “no” vote in the NPS offer won’t help us to negotiate with CRCs, a “Yes” vote helps as CRCs don’t want to lose staff to NPS... none of us wanted the split and we are doing what we can to challenge the plan to continue it but we have to work with what we’ve got. All CRC members should have received a Napo briefing explaining this, if you didn’t contact Napo to make sure your contact details are correct.

I am fully briefed and it was with the news of the pay offer for HMPPS that our NAPO rep and others approached top management to gain an understanding if they would be considering following suit and the answer as I am told was a flat no. One other thing that is not being mentioned is that it is difficult for a P.O with a long service history to just jump ship as they lose all their service.

And, if the vote swings no, no one will get a rise and Napo will have no way to pressure CRCs to give a rise. This is called cutting off nose to spite one's face.

Whilst your CRC management say they won't follow suit, there will be a lot of pressure from both Napo and staff, particularly staff deciding to take up open NPS positions for the better pay package.

Also, do remember, that CRCs are different employers from NPS and negotiations are done totally separately at the insistence of the CRCs.
You are certainly better in a union, without it there would have been no pay rise! Who will you have sat by your side in a capability meeting due to huge case loads, in an SFO hearing, fighting for terms and conditions with the employer?

As said I am in NAPO and will continue to be, for now. But please take on board there is no pay rise on the horizon for CRC’s.

However Napo are now fighting hard for the CRCs as well. They had to start somewhere and it’s logical to start with the main employer and then go out to negotiate with the rest having set the bar with the NPS. The CRC members have not been, nor would be disregarded or forgotten.

I think if we are to continue to make every probation employee feel equally as important then we need to be careful of the language we use. I could question your reference to NPS as the main ‘employer’ when CRCs employ more probation staff than NPS. Language can make individuals feel second in line if we are not careful. My point however tonight was only to raise the plight of your CRC colleagues in reference to the current pay rise negotiations currently taking place for NPS staff. I would like nothing more than to be in looking to the future like our colleagues in Wales who will be reunited once again as one probation service.

Xxxxxx you are absolutely right in regards to use of language and my intention certainly wasn’t to make anyone feel “second in line”. I used the phrase “main employer“ in relation to the NPS as being the organisation making the rules through being a government led organisation as opposed to the different companies running each CRC. And you also right that we need to be mindful of people in the CRC who are not yet getting a pay rise, and like yourself I too am hopeful we will be one service again.

My confusion had stemmed from believing from what I had read in the early communications which seemed to suggest that I would definitely be jumping to the top of the scale in April 20. When I read the collective agreement sent out Monday on the intranet I couldn't understand why it did not mention it. I get it now but I’m not sure how clear it had been made originally. I know I’m not alone in how we first understood it.

I agree. As ever the devil is in the detail.

I wish we had some detail. The more I look at this half deal the less happy I become. For me it is all up side, because I am at the top and so am not affected by the lack of information on the "Competency Framework". But the rest of you toiling up the bands are being sold a blind deal, as we drive over brexit cliff into a recession. If you honestly believe that this will not be "sadly overtaken by events" then you are in my view overly trusting.

Detach this offer from the "Modernisation agenda" (even give up the non consolidated bungs, even though that is over half of my "offer") and then negotiate "Competency progression" or as I like to call it "Performance Related Pay" without the bribes. Then I would vote for it. As it stands, the best you will get from me is an abstention (Which given you need 51% is a de facto vote against).


My CRC have said no to matching the NPS offer. Is this the scenario across the land or have any of the CRCs said yes??

Sodexo are giving 1.5% for 2018-2019; in addition to the incremental increase already given in April 2018. Further pay negotiations are ongoing....

Which CRC are you and who runs it? Sodexo have basically stuck two fingers up and said 1.5%. Although they are trying to sell it as 2.5 by including their contractually obligations of an incremental pay increase.

I'm the DLNR. They have only committed to the 1% incremental payrise!!

RRP run it. It's so disheartening that they clearly couldn't give a stuff.

Ingeous is a big partner, Cgl and St Giles Trust form the RRP.

And not one give a flying shite Sodexo here as well. Unimpressed.... X

Working Links Wales South West and Devon.& Cornwall not honoured the increment yet meeting with them later today....not hopeful .

This is why national bargaining should not have been broken up.

And most likely why it was.

Warwickshire and West Mercia increment only . Don’t want to be bearer of bad news but CRC colleagues will not get anything like NPS offer this side of new contracts.

It's absolutely disgusting.

I agree but unfortunately that’s what we’re dealing with. CRCs will not pay unless forced to.

Is there not an argument for the pay rise under the tupe laws?

TUPE deals with what is done at the time of transfer and not afterwards. The arguments will have to be made through the negotiating structure - backed up by a campaign.

As national bargaining has been given up each area will have to fight on their own...which is hard if you haven't got reps with enough facility time.

Thanks for the clarification. I asked as I have a colleague who now works for an outside partner agency but was TUPEd across and each time there is a pay change he then uses that to fight, and get, an equal pay change.

More staff will move to the NPS... just so unfair as no one asked for these splits to take place and yet everyone suffers (both NPS and CRC) as a result.


This from the Napo General Secretary's most recent blog post:-

Pay Ballot produces a surge in Napo membership

While the team here do their best to respond to incoming enquiries about the NPS pay offer, we had cause to issue some further clarification following reports we have received from members who were confused or angry (or both), following contact with UNISON members or having seen other non-Napo literature. It’s here again if by any chance you have not seen it.

Our approach to this offer has been one of honesty about what it provides and what it does not. I trust in our member’s judgement to make their individual decision in the ballot based on what it means to you personally, but also I hope, what it means for your pay going forward. Let me be perfectly clear: the quantum amount of money available for this deal could never be enough to redress all of the injustices suffered by our members. Nevertheless, when I compare this to the scores upon scores of pay deals in which members of your negotiating team have been previously involved, this is undoubtedly the best offer that we could have achieved in the current climate.

I never assume anything, but a good pointer to how Napo members are viewing this deal and how they are engaging with non-members, is the surge in membership applications to join us (and have a say in the pay ballot) that have come in over the past week.

I think this vindicates our decision to recommend the offer and say why; rather than the easier option of just putting it out there and relinquishing responsibility.

Ian Lawrence

Thursday 25 October 2018

Probation News

"CRC is a business - that’s what it’s about."
In unbelievable news, Private Eye reveals that, having pleaded poverty and been given a 'bung' by the government, just like magic, the CRCs can make huge profits:-

For long-suffering NPS staff, it may be comforting to know just what brilliant plans there are for IT:-

How we’re making our hosting simpler, more cost-effective, and more modern

At the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), we have thousands of different systems running on many different types of hosting, from modern, hyper-scale cloud providers like AWS and Azure all the way through to physical servers in data centers and server rooms.

We want to move all of these systems to public cloud hosting. This post sets out why and how we’re going to do this, and what we will do once it’s done.

By moving to public cloud hosting we predict we can reduce overall hosting costs by 60% over the long term, presenting the department with a multi-million pound saving opportunity. As well as saving money, moving to the cloud makes us better able to manage, change, improve, and secure our systems and the data they hold, as well as making it easier to make them more resilient to failure.

We need to understand what we have before we can work out how to move it to the cloud

To help us identify the right tools and techniques to apply to the various systems within our estate, we’re grouping our infrastructure under three headings:

  • Retirement infrastructure is infrastructure we don’t want to continue running, usually because the systems hosted on it use technologies that are no longer supported, or aren’t able to easily scale or be managed automatically. This is where most of our most expensive contracts and oldest systems are. Some of these systems are built in ways that make them hard to move off of this sort of infrastructure, so we have to identify which systems require that extra care.
  • Modernisation infrastructure is infrastructure that’s in the public cloud, but the applications running on it are not cloud native yet. It allows us to take advantage of the cost savings of public cloud hosting, but may not be able to be easily managed at scale (for example, applying security updates to all the underlying systems at once, in a predictable manner).
  • Cloud native infrastructure is infrastructure that’s able to be managed all at once, with clear separation between the applications and the infrastructure (using containers), is resilient to failure, and can easily scale. We, like much of the rest of the industry, are using Kubernetes as the basis of our cloud native infrastructure.
We’re saving millions of pounds by closing down and consolidating retirement infrastructure

We’re working to move as many systems as we can out of retirement infrastructure and into modernisation infrastructure, and turning off systems that aren’t needed anymore. As we do this, we’re ending contracts for that infrastructure and identifying ways to better support them.

We’ve achieved a lot already. We’ve moved (or turned off, where appropriate) all of the systems that support Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to modernisation infrastructure. We’re also in the process of moving many of the Legal Aid Agency’s systems.

Where systems can’t be moved directly to modernisation infrastructure in the public cloud, as is the case with some of the Legal Aid Agency’s systems, we’re moving them to new, more cost-effective retirement infrastructure environments that give us more control. From there, we can work out how best to move them to the cloud or eventually turn them off.

We’re making our modernisation infrastructure cloud native

We will keep improving the systems in our modernisation infrastructure until they’re cloud native and, when they are, move them onto our Cloud Platform. We’re trying to reduce the amount of manual administration we do on every system, making them easier to run and update. Doing this makes us able to more respond quickly security threats and bugs and spend more time improving our systems and making them more resilient.

Many of the systems we’ve moved from retirement infrastructure into modernisation infrastructure weren’t built to be cloud native, and we’re working to automate management of their infrastructure and deployments.

Some of our other systems were built in the cloud and have some automation around them, but aren’t what we’d consider cloud-native. We’re gradually making them better, and moving them to the Cloud Platform when we can.

This improves our ability to operate our systems en masse, makes us better able to respond to incidents, control access to data they store, and allows our teams to focus more on delivering the best services they can.

We’re making our cloud native infrastructure evergreen

The modern platform of today is tomorrow’s legacy. We’re working to make our Cloud Platform evergreen, constantly improving it and changing it without impacting our users.

We’re building the Cloud Platform around Kubernetes, because that’s emerged as the industry standard for this kind of work. The Cloud Platform’s first tenant (the LAA fee calculator, part of the the system used to manage claims for criminal legal aid) went live a few weeks ago.

We’re also keeping an eye on other architectures (like serverless computing) to make sure we’re always ready for what’s coming next, and can keep moving our systems into the best hosting infrastructure the future has to offer.

We’ve made great progress, but there’s more to do

Like any government department, we have lots of old systems that are in need of attention. We’re working hard to make sure we can look after them more effectively alongside building new things.

We want our teams to be able to deliver the best services they can, and continually improving our hosting estate helps do this while dramatically reducing how much we spend to run all of our services.

We’ve made great progress on this so far. We’re saving tens of millions of pounds moving things out of retirement infrastructure and turning off things we don’t need. We’re also modernising our cloud infrastructure, and building new things with longevity and ease of maintenance in mind from day one.


Finally, the Probation Institute are seeking practitioners' views:-

Professional Discussions – Registration, Licence to Practice and Regulation

The Probation Institute is holding professional discussion groups on registration, licence to practice and regulation. Through the recent MOJ consultation, HMPPS is currently considering questions such as the scope of registration and regulation, which posts it should apply to, how qualifications might be regulated. We know there is much debate on these matters.

We are very keen for practitioners and managers to help us to shape our proposal to become the Professional Register/Regulatory Body if this proceeds as anticipated in 2019. We would very much welcome your ideas, your practical and applied understanding of the implications for practice, and your ambitions for such a body.

We are therefore inviting practitioners and managers in the National Probation Service, CRCs and voluntary organisations to meet with us for an open discussion about professional registration, a licence to practice and a regulatory body. The sessions will include a short presentation from the Probation Institute.

There are 20 places for each of the events. Please join us if you can and please share this invitation and encourage colleagues to come along.

The events are

London - Wednesday 7th November from 4 to 6pm at Kennington Park 1-3, Brixton Rd, London SW9 6De

York - Wednesday November 14th 4to 6pm at the Quaker Meeting Room, Lower Friargate, York, YO1 9RL

Bristol - Wednesday November 21st 4 to 6pm at 4, Clifton Village, 4 Rodney Place, Bristol BS8 4HY

Please send an email to to book a place

Thank you, we look forward to seeing you,

Helen Schofield
Acting Chief Executive
Probation Institute

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Prison and the Feminine Touch

It's always interesting when the prison crisis features in the financial press. This from the FT:- 

Jailers and reformers at odds over cash cure for prison chaos

Austerity has left institutions understaffed, overcrowded and beset by drug problems

When inspectors visited Bedford prison last month, the conditions took them by surprise. Rats and cockroaches scuttled through cells and corridors, while smoke from drug consumption pervaded the wings. There was a “dangerous lack of control” and the number of assaults by inmates on staff was higher than at any other jail in England and Wales. 

For the fourth time in less than a year, the inspectorate invoked an emergency protocol requiring an urgent response from the justice secretary on what steps he would take to stabilise the prison. The rapid decline in standards at facilities such as Bedford has fuelled calls for help for prisons in next week’s Budget. Between 2010 and 2015, the peak years of austerity, the Prison Service lost a quarter of its budget and nearly 30 per cent of its staff. A drive to recruit more officers is boosting numbers again, but the loss of veteran staff has left newer hires struggling to control increased violence and drug-taking.

Persistently high inmate populations mean that well over half of jails in England and Wales are overcrowded. Meanwhile, physical conditions have deteriorated to the extent that inspectors at Bedford logged 600 outstanding repairs. The question now for ministers is whether putting cash back into the system will help undo the damage — and if so, where new resources should be focused. The most obvious priority for investment is staff. Ministers passed their target in April to recruit 2,500 new prison officers, but as even more are recruited, plunging morale is driving experienced employees from the service. According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of middle-ranking prison officers who left in the year to June was up by 10 per cent on the previous 12 months, and of these, a higher proportion were resignations than the year before.

One prison officer told the Financial Times that the flood of young recruits, and particularly women, had transformed the composition of staff so dramatically that jails “now look more like nightclubs”. Inspectors noted that 77 per cent of prison officers at Bedford had less than one year’s service. The answer, according to the unions, is to divert funds towards retention. Mark Fairhurst, national chair of the POA, the prison officers’ association, said that if ministers wanted better results from prison officers “they need to pay them more at all levels, and return the pension age to 60, from 68”, he said. “There need to be proper incentives to go into the prison service and stay there.” 
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, agreed. “What’s missing at the moment is those well-remunerated middle-managers, many of whom were lost in the early round of cuts,” she said.

Another key area for investment is physical infrastructure. Prisons minister Rory Stewart has already announced a £10m programme to introduce airport-style body scanners and sniffer dogs to prevent drugs being smuggled into 10 jails in England and Wales with some of the most acute problems. But the prison officers union argued that if the government was serious about stopping drugs, it had to go further, extending the rollout of body scanners to all adult male prisons and bringing in technology to block signals from mobile phones and drones, which are essential to maintaining drugs supply. The Howard League, however, is wary of such spending. “Do you need to spend money on all this security? Or do you just get prisoners out of their cells and give them something to do all day?,” asked Ms Crook. “Young men who are locked in their cells doing nothing except watching daytime television are going to get angry and are more likely to take drugs . . . the devil makes work for idle hands.”

At Bedford, some prisoners are allowed access to education and work activities, but nearly 40 per cent of inmates are locked up during the working day. Ms Crook suggested that providing better conditions for prisoners — such as clean toilets, in-cell phones to call their families, and purposeful activities — would be better solutions to drug-taking than expensive deterrent tactics. 

Neither the Treasury nor the justice ministry would comment on the Budget. However, Ms Crook added that while investment might ameliorate some of the problems in prisons, “it won’t solve them”. The more intractable issue is the high prison population, which stands just above 83,000, having risen by a third in the past two decades. Ken Clarke — the justice secretary who oversaw the first round of budget cuts in 2010 — agreed to significant cost savings partly because he intended to bring down the number of people in jail. Subsequent Conservative justice secretaries have continued the austerity regime, but without the same drive to cut the population.

While the easiest solution politically would be to reduce the number of inmates on short sentences, this is unlikely to have much of an effect because the population growth has been driven by a 40 per cent increase in those on longer sentences of four years or more since austerity began. This could be tackled by changes to future sentencing policy — which would take several years to show results — or changes to existing sentences, which would prove much more contentious. Nick Hardwick, the former chief inspector of prisons, said it was “critical” that ministers combined any new spending with finding a way round the population deadlock if prisons were to start functioning. “We need to get the finances right and achieve a sustainable population,” he said. “We have to find a way of creating some space in the system again.”


I notice BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour has recently covered the subject of prison and female staff:- 

The women who want to work in a male prison

The prison service in England and Wales is in crisis, amid reports of widespread problems with drugs and violence in numerous jails. Three women explain why they want a job working behind bars in a men-only prison.

The word "misunderstood" is tattooed in pink along Charmaine's arm. It's in memory of her friend who was murdered. Her friend had the same tattoo done before she was killed. "I can't really say what it means," admits Charmaine. "Some people think it's from a song, but I think it's more to do with how my friend saw herself as a person." She describes her as being like a sister. "We did everything together. She was my world."

The tattoo is now motivating Charmaine in her new career. She's just become a prison officer. "If my friend knew I would eventually become a prison officer, she would have told me I was mad and needed my head testing." But it was something Charmaine's mother said that stayed with her. "After my friend's death it took me some time to really think straight but my mother told me once that everyone deserves a second chance. I couldn't think about anything else except how much I hated my friend's attacker, but after a year or so I started to think about what my mother said. I decided I would try and make a difference and become a prison officer."

We have agreed not to use Charmaine's surname - or the surnames of the other women featured in this piece - for security reasons. I met Charmaine when she was in training at Newbold Revel, an 18th Century, Grade II listed country house in Warwickshire. She's 50 years old and a mother and grandmother and used to be a painter and decorator on building sites, where she was the only woman. Charmaine decided she wanted to try something new after having one too many accidents while painting, so recently she's been working in a prison to get the feel of it, before committing to it completely.

She says she's ready for the challenge and feels confident that she can cope with violence or incidents of self-harm, partly because she's already had some personal experience of it. "My brother and nephew took their own lives. It's not something I'm scared of. I know I can deal with it and be sympathetic and compassionate to the family, but it's hard."

She says her life experience will definitely play a part in her new role. "You're seeing youngsters come into the prison for the first time and it's nerve-wracking for them. You need someone with motherly instincts who can pick up if someone's upset." Charmaine has been a victim of crime. She was also in an abusive relationship and ended up at a refuge. Even so, she prefers to think about prison as a place of rehabilitation rather than punishment. "Prison teaches them not to go back out and reoffend. We try and teach them that what they've done is not a good thing, and then help them go back into society and be a better person."

Training alongside Charmaine is Sally, 49, and Calypso, 24. Sally had a career in banking and then local government, while Calypso has been doing bar work as well as an Open University forensic psychology degree. As trainees, they all spend 10 weeks at Newbold Revel, although the full training is 12 weeks long. It's a mixture of classroom theory and practical exercises using role play. Recruits learn cuffing, cell-searching, locking and unlocking doors, as well as how to deal with confrontation and communicate well.

Charmaine, Sally and Calypso start their new careers at a point when prisons are feeling the strain. There's evidence of an increase in sexual violence between inmates and there have been stark warnings about rising violence and drug use behind bars. Because of the number of people leaving the service, the government aims to train 5,200 new prison officers this year and says it is on track to meet the target. The trio are also joining a male-dominated industry. According to the latest figures, there are about 21,600 prison officers in England and Wales. Just over a quarter of those are women.

Despite the challenges, all three women say they're positive about their next step, insisting they're not naïve. "I really believe in what I'm doing," Sally says. "For me, there are no rose-tinted glasses. I'm excited because I know there's a rehabilitation culture in prison. That's what brings change and that excites me. Yes, there'll be challenges, but those challenges are opportunities."

"It is risky," admits Calypso, "but that doesn't put me off because a lot of it is to do with your interpersonal skills. "It's not about how big and tough you are. If I can help just one person, I've done my job in life."

Tuesday 23 October 2018

The Ups and Downs of Business

As we heard the other day from that Probation Institute article:-
"CRC is a business - that’s what it’s about."
and the trouble with that is businesses go up and they go down. Interserve's share price yesterday stood at 49.50, down further from this Motley Fool article of 2nd October:- 

Outsourcing and construction firm Interserve (LSE: IRV) announced the sale of its scaffolding business this morning, for up to £4.6m. The news follows the group’s recent half-year results. These showed that headline operating profit fell by 29% to £40.1m during the six months to 30 June, compared with the same period last year.

Management tried to put a positive spin on these figures by pointing out that they were better than the second half of 2017. That’s true. But this doesn’t disguise the fact that Interserve ended the period with increased net debt of £614.3m. This is more than six times trailing earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

The company’s lenders won’t allow it to pay a dividend until the group’s net debt-to-EBITDA ratio falls below 2.5x. In my view this is unlikely to happen until the company holds a rights issue to raise fresh cash from shareholders.

What comes next?

Analysts’ forecasts suggest the City holds a similar view. Although adjusted earnings are expected to triple to 19.3p per share next year, the current share price of 56p puts the stock on a 2019 price/earnings ratio of just 3.

In my opinion this indicates that the market doesn’t expect Interserve to deliver a sustainable recovery without raising fresh cash and diluting shareholders. I agree. I believe these shares are simply too risky for equity investors at the moment. I’d stay well away.


It's well known that Interserve got into big trouble with trying to make money out of rubbish and is desperately trying to exit the Energy from Waste market (EfW). Thanks to an alert reader, my attention has been drawn to the sad story unfolding in Derby that just might prove terminal. This from Derby News:-

Council has ‘right to terminate’ Sinfin ‘Incinerator’ contract on 1 October 2018. Time to be decisive!

By the end of this month, the contractor for the Sinfin Incinerator (Sinfin Lane), Resource Recovery Solutions (Derbyshire) Ltd (RRS) will have failed to have secured the Completion Certificate for the plant. This is considered to be contract default and, as such, a termination notice can be served for cancellation of the contract, by both Derby City, and Derbyshire County Councils (joint signatories).


When the contract was signed in December 2009, it specified the planned completion date as 31 March 2017. It also defined a “Long Stop date”, being 18 months later, namely 30 September 2018. Subsection (m) of the clause on “Contract Default” states that default happens if a completion certificate has not been obtained by the “Long Stop Date”, 30 September.

The completion certificate is prepared by the Independent Certifier. The certifier confirms the results of a variety of defined tests which demonstrate that the plant is operating in line with the contract. A significant test involves the full plant running for 14 consecutive days.

RRS need to give the Councils, and the Independent Certifier, 20 days notice of the start of all of the acceptance testing. This notice has not been given, yet – there is not enough time left before the 30 September 2018.

Who’s involved? What is their financial state?

RRS is a Joint Venture company owned 50:50 ,through intermediary companies, by Interserve plc and Renewi plc.

RRS’s last set of published accounts (31 March 2017) showed that it was illiquid. It could not service its short term liabilities with available cash and short term assets. A note to the accounts highlighted that the Capital Contribution Loan of £42.5m was due for repayment on 30 June 2018. It was relying on the plant being in operation by then so the outstanding “completion” amounts from the Councils, of £50m, could be paid. The note continues that if:

“…full service commencement is delayed until after 30 June 2018…the Company (RRS) would not have sufficient funds to repay the loan”
By March 2018, the directors clearly knew that the plant would not be running on time so a 2nd mortgage was taken out on the leasehold land, and plant from Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

Interserve plc is a large company operating on wafer-thin margins. It’s net worth has dropped by 90% in just over 2 years, and it is now technically illiquid. It declared a few years ago that it wanted to exit from the “Energy for Waste” Business of which the Sinfin plant is a part.

Renewi plc was formed from a merger including the original Incinerator contractor of Shanks Waste Management. Renewi also work on tight margins, and is technically illiquid in the short term.

What happens now?

A joint decision has to be made by both Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council.

There are essentially 2 options under the contract:

  1. Do nothing – continue to wait for RRS to commission the plant. There are no committed timescales. When formally certified pay the outstanding £50m
  2. Submit a Termination notice on 1 October 2018. Theoretically, at that point, the plant would be closed to avoid further costs.
What might confuse matters if option 2 is chosen?

  • RRS are clearly aware of the “Contractor default” clause in the contract. Have any “private guarantees” been given to RRS which might “kick back” on the Council?
  • The Contract is not just for the Incineration plant, it includes all existing County wide waste management activities. This is not a profitable activity, so they might see it as an opportunity to get out, or negotiate a price increase.
  • The £50m from the Councils is required for cash flow. Contract cancellation will almost inevitably mean that RRS would go bust, as well as Interserve plc. As they are a public limited company then there is an issue about “share price sensitive information”.

With a plant of this nature, there will be very few people, who have any real objective view of how far away formal completion is; Interserve plc have continually slipped their reported dates. If the Council allow RRS to “recover the situation” then the likelihood is of continuing programme creep.

The £50m, to be paid, by the Councils, will not improve the facility it will simply pay off loans. There is still no assurance over the long term financial viability of any element of this consortium. A worst case scenario is:

  • RRS just scrape through on the acceptance tests which confirms completion
  • The Councils pay the £50m
  • One, or many of the company’s go into administration – the plant is seized by the bank, leaving an unknown party to run the facility.
  • Councils “Wasted” £50m
There has been some disquiet over the fact that the decision on the contract will be taken by Cabinet in private. It is a matter of normal process for commercially confidential matters to be conducted in Cabinet after the Press and Public have been asked to leave. Given that the consequences of a termination decision could be share price sensitive then, in my opinion, it has to be done in private. This could include Cllrs from the affected wards, plus cross party representation.

Should there be a different set of circumstances where the Councils decide to pay the £50m, then I believe that that should be held in public, before any payments are made. It should also include a detailed financial viability of the contractor companies.

The £25m contribution from Derby City Council could be better spent on facilities that the people of Derby actually want. There is a question mark over whether the business case savings of £2m pa are still valid. The “Long stop date” was set in the contract for a purpose,… to be used! It is now time to be decisive!

If the decision to terminate is taken, then I’m sure it will be messy….but it will be the right thing to do for the long term prosperity of the City and, especially, the immediate neighbourhood.


The latest situation is outlined here again on the Derby News website:-

Sinfin Incinerator : the pressure to terminate the contract mounts! Full facts will be available on 19th October…

The Council’s cross-party Executive Scrutiny Board robustly challenged the Council Cabinet’s position on the termination of the Sinfin Incincerator (to be formally presented on the 10th October)

“To defer any decision on the Council resolutions until they can be considered alongside up-to-date and appropriate technical, financial and legal information.”
This is despite the Full Council passing 2 resolutions on 27th September calling for the contract to be terminated. The resolutions don’t state a timescale. Although the Full Council’s opinion has strong weight, the Cabinet has the Executive authority to make the decisions.

Cllr Eldret asked a direct question as to whether Resource Recovery Solutions was in breach of contract. A legal Officer, confirmed that the “long stop date” was the 30 September 2018 and that RRS were in breach under the terms of the Project Agreement

The Chief Legal Officer made the point that the Cabinet must make “rational” decisions. He highlighted that all technical ( i.e. state of the readiness of the plant), legal and financial ramifications were in the process of being assessed and would be available to the administration by 19th October 2018.

Cllr Holmes, Deputy Leader from the Conservative administration attended the meeting. He further added that:

  • the plant had cost around £190m so far (Neither Derby City, nor Derbyshire County Council have paid any money so far. They are due to pay £25m each, on successful completion- if the contract is terminated then no money will be paid.)
  • there were on-going discussions with the contractor RRS, over how much compensation it would pay to the Councils for agreeing to waive the contract termination until 31 December 2018. [This was a surprising revelation ]
  • the Conservative administration was now looking to have internal cross-party discussions with the various leaders. Cllr Eldret, angrily, pointed out that no one had previously approached her, or the other leaders, to have discussions that were desperately needed a few weeks ago – in her words ” you have messed up the politics”.
2 recommendations were made to the Cabinet, the primary one was to re-assert that termination should take place with immediate effect.


No one would be comfortable with the Cabinet making a decision in the absence of complete information. There was general consternation as to why this work had not been done many months ago – the end date of 30 September 2018 was specified in the 2009 contract. Of course it was also well within the gift of the previous Labour administration to have initiated this before May 2018.

The politics certainly have been messed up, the direction of the Full Council, and the local residents is clear, the opportunity exists to correct this sorry situation in the lead up to the full information being available by the 19th. Time for full, frank, open, consultative decisions to ensure that the next step is the correct one.

The balance of proof is now with the contractor – they must unequivocally demonstrate that they have a plan, a process, and a plant that can deliver to their agreed contractual obligations, including the savings. One that is demonstrated with such rigour that it justifies the payment of £25m. If they can’t, then the Councils must proceed with termination – there is no other choice! And they have 10 days!

As Cllr Holmes said, this contract termination is ”one of the biggest decisions that the Council will ever take”.

Monday 22 October 2018

Third Sector Lobbying Hard

Frances Crook of the Howard League remarked the other day on twitter that the MoJ had received 600 responses to its sham probation consultation and only one was in support of the split. She suggested somewhat amusingly it had probably been written by Chris Grayling himself, but it's no laughing matter and as this from Clinks early last month makes clear, the charity and voluntary sector are determined to make sure they're not screwed second time around:- 


Major changes were made to probation services across England and Wales through the Transforming Rehabilitation programme in 2015. This large structural reform replaced Probation Trusts with a single National Probation Service (NPS), responsible for the management of ‘high-risk’ offenders; and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), responsible for the management of ‘low to medium risk’ offenders in 21 Contract Package Areas (CPAs).

The programme was controversial from inception, and it quickly became apparent it was not working as intended, as outlined in a recent report by the Justice Select Committee.

The MoJ also came under pressure for how Transforming Rehabilitation impacted on voluntary organisations. Clinks’ own research showed that the voluntary sector was under represented, under pressure and under resourced in the delivery of services under the reforms.

In response to such pressures, the MoJ decided to end current contracts in 2020 (two years earlier than planned) and begin a process, including a consultation, to redesign probation services. This consultation is part of that process.

You can read Clinks’ Interim Head of Policy Jess Mullen’s reaction and full summary of the key points of the consultation document here.


We have been busy supporting the MoJ’s market and stakeholder engagement activity, to ensure voluntary sector organisations can meaningfully input into the consultation process. We have hosted four events across England and Wales which were attended by over 150 people representing voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system.

At these events, officials from the MoJ presented their proposals for the future of probation, and Clinks staff facilitated roundtable discussions on three areas: service design, commissioning and market stewardship. Here are some initial themes which came out of these discussions:

  • Greater continuity of support needed. Many organisations identified the general lack of continuity from prison, to resettlement, through to ongoing probation support as a key issue in the current system. Greater communication and integration between probation and prisons is needed, as well as greater coordination between probation services and other statutory services.
  • Large CPAs must not neglect local charities. In the consultation document, the MoJ proposes reducing the number of CPAs from 21 to 10. While this may encourage greater coordination between the NPS and CRCs, there is some concern that increasing the size of the geographical areas CRCs cover would make it even harder to ensure local, specialist charities are involved in delivery.
  • The ISPA should be replaced. The Industry Standard Partnering Agreement (ISPA) is a standardised subcontract developed by the MoJ for use in probation. The ISPA has been too complex for smaller charities, and has given power to CRCs to negotiate favourable terms. It has also proved too rigid to respond to changes in volume of work. The ISPA should be scrapped and any future template contract must be flexible and proportionate to the services being delivered.
  • Holding CRCs to account. Many voluntary organisations have been left frustrated in their relations with CRCs. Some want the MoJ to bring in either incentives or enforce requirements on CRCs to involve voluntary organisations meaningfully in the delivery of probation services.
As part of these consultation events, we also held a closed session, without MoJ officials present, in order to hold conversations with voluntary organisations on broader concerns and issues with the design of probation services. The discussions held in this context will inform and shape our own response to the consultation.

It is clear through our engagement with voluntary organisations that there is some scepticism over the consultation process itself. In particular, people are concerned that the deadline the MoJ has given itself to consult on, redesign and launch a new probation service is at best ambitious. Given that the rushed implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation led to so many unforeseen consequences, such a concern is understandable.

Nonetheless, we think it is important that as many voluntary organisations as possible contribute to this consultation.


The MoJ is listening - illustrated by the number of officials who have come to these events, engaged in discussion and answered often difficult questions. There is much yet to be decided and voluntary organisations still have an opportunity to shape probation services for the better.

The MoJ is also keen to hear from those with experience of navigating probation services themselves, and they have created resources to support organisations to consult with their service users in this process.

If you need any support in responding to the consultation, have any questions about the process, or wish to feed into our response, please get in touch.


Whilst we await the official MoJ response to the sham consultation, we can be fairly sure nobody is happy with the present situation, including Bob Neill of the Justice Committee:- 

Dear David,

Transforming Rehabilitation 

Thank you for your letter of 27 July regarding the future of probation. As you will know, this is an issue of great interest to our Committee, given the many serious and large-scale problems which have arisen due to the major structural reforms to the probation system introduced in 2014 and 2015. 

We were encouraged that you agree with us that there have been significant challenges, particularly with CRC contracts. We welcome a number of points in your consultation on the future of the probation system, including the introduction of clearer minimum standards and increasing opportunities for the involvement of voluntary sector organisations. We are particularly pleased that the consultation specifically aims to strengthen confidence in community sentences, since this is a key concern for our Committee. 

However, we are disappointed that the consultation does not go far enough. We concluded earlier this year in our report Transforming Rehabilitation: Ninth report of session 2017-19 that we were unconvinced that the current model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service. We recommended that the Ministry of Justice initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services under the models introduced by the TR reforms, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation. In our view the scope of the current consultation therefore represents a missed opportunity. 

In particular, we are unconvinced that splitting offenders by risk was the right way to deliver the probation system. Therefore we are also particularly interested in your response to our call on the Government to ask HMI Probation to conduct a review of how offenders should be distributed between the NPS and CRCs, to investigate the impact of changing offender risk and how the NPS and CRCs manage this matter.

We note that you intend to procure new CRC contracts from 2020. Our committee will also want to pay special attention to the new contractual arrangements, given the past failures to tackle under-performance. In 2017-18, HMPPS wrote off an abandoned claim of nearly £6 million for recoveries from CRCs; this raises serious concerns about commercial capability within the department. It is vitally important that previous failures in the contracting model are not repeated. 

We note that you will not provide a formal response to the recommendations in our June 2018 report until October, and look forward to receiving that response and to continued engagement with you and your officials on this important matter.

Bob Neill MP
Chair Justice Committee