For this roundup, lets return to that very troubled area Cheshire Greater Manchester and some excerpts from the chief's blog:-
As you are aware, I had my first meeting with our Preferred Bidder, Purple Futures, on Wednesday. I met with Yvonne Thomas, Managing Director and Robin Derrett, Head of Business Change Group from Interserve Justice, in the company of Patrick Connelly, the Senior Contract Manager for our CRC. We are not able to discuss anything that is commercially sensitive at this stage but did have a really positive initial conversation. Yvonne and Robin understand the disappointment experienced by staff that the mutual bid was unsuccessful but recognised the wealth of experience that the involvement of staff in a mutual bid has brought to CGM CRC. They are very keen to meet up with both senior leaders and staff, to ‘test out’ elements of innovation within their bid and to provide a full induction to all staff about Purple Futures and Interserve.
At a meeting with the Senior Leadership Team next Friday, Purple Futures will outline (at a high level – no detail as yet) their operating model. They will also introduce their Mobilisation, Transition and Transformation (MTT) Team for Cheshire and Greater Manchester. This is the team, made up of both corporate and operational staff, who will work with us to implement the new model. Once the contract is signed, we will be able to have full discussions with Interserve Justice and the other organisations that make up the Purple Futures partnership, regarding the detail of their plans for CGM CRC over the next seven years. I anticipate that the detailed conversations will take place from the New Year, with staff induction taking place in early February 2015.
On last week’s blog Xxxx Xxxxx posted a question asking for clarification in relation to seven years’ protection on terms and conditions, following share sale. I thought it may be worth sharing the response on this week’s blog. It is important to note that the MoJ has confirmed that the sale of shares in CGM CRC to the new provider does not constitute a TUPE transfer of undertakings as there is no change of employer, merely a change of ownership of the shares in the employer company. Following the share sale, existing NNC and SCCOG National Agreements on Pay and Conditions of Service will, therefore, continue to be the terms and conditions for all staff.
You may be aware that there will be further releases of N-Delius on December 14 and January 15. These releases are designed to fix some bugs, but will also support the final separation of CGM CRC and NPS. This will mean that the ability for CGM CRC staff to have joint log-ins and access to NPS information will cease for most people, although for some roles such as receptionists access to some NPS information will remain. Briefings will take place over the coming weeks to inform you of the main changes, so make sure you sign up for your local event. We will then be training up ‘SuperUsers’ in all clusters, who will receive in-depth training on the changes, so they can support colleagues when the new system goes live. Follow-up training for all staff will take place in January and February. There will be further releases during 2015, which will bring in further changes to the Offender Rehabilitation Act, but as yet we have no dates or details of these.
Just a reminder what many on the shop floor are thinking:-
Advice to bidders: if you sign these contracts you inherit a large number of your workforce with a very bitter taste in their mouths and with no incentive to make your profit agenda work. If I were you, I would have my VR offer letters ready to go from day one and let those of us with a conscience, social values and no desire to assist you to make immoral profits off our backs and our tax etc, get out and move on to something meaningful and worthwhile. Working for you is most definitely not either.
I hope you're right about inheriting a bitter workforce. Looking at overall levels of activism in the workforce in resisting TR, I wonder about high levels of docility and apathy. We know outsourcing primarily reduces costs by reducing workforces, lowering wages and pensions and reducing allowances. And we can reasonably expect these elements will make up the lion's share of the 30% cut to budgets. Once these private companies and outfits like NACRO take the reins, there will be an unholy race to the bottom. Wages at the top will be fine and so you can understand the senior managers seeing pots of gold for themselves, far more than they could have hoped-for in the public sector. But those below will carry all the losses. There will be more probation staff needing state benefits to get by, as the state subsidises low incomes, as the companies, with their first duty to their shareholders, pursue their profits.
All this was foreseeable and yet rank and file staff showed a readiness to cross picket lines and lacked even the motivation to vote in ballots. And overnight probation work will become profit-driven. Sure, there will be high-minded pronouncements about what the companies stand for and how they are committed to rehabilitation, but the bottom line will be about making money as there is no other rationale for their involvement, because the shareholders must come first. And if it seems they can't make their expected profits or their brands suffer reputational damage, they will walk away, just like ATOS.
The NoOffence website carries an interesting blog with yet more sobering reflections for putative probation winners:-
The great and outspoken Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids’ Company spoke at an Odgers Interim event in September 2014 of her concerns that some voluntary organisations were clearly compromising their aims, objectives, services and constitutions in the pursuit of income and survival at any cost. ‘Charities are prioritising their own well-being over that of their beneficiaries and morphing into money-making organisations’. Despite changes in social demographics in the sector, there are some charities who believe that they have an absolute right to exist, despite their services hardly, if ever, moving with the times to meet or even address these social trends. Indeed, a few years back, I recall a refreshingly frank, shooting from the lip presenter from The Big Lottery Fund telling an assembled Central London audience of which I was part that one of the first questions that their assessors ask when looking at a new grant application is - ‘Are your services really necessary or are you asking us to keep you in a job?’. Some charities take note! Blunt but extremely relevant as we see the seemingly endless parade of formerly well-respected charities and voluntary sector organisations tout themselves around and enter into doomed, cobbled together consortia and partnerships, dare I say ‘Joint Enterprises’, in their fight for financial survival at any price - emphasis on ‘any price’ - but often at the inevitable cost of the service user - the offender. The old analogy of you buy cheap, you buy twice could not be more openly at play in these cut to the bone contracts. There is plenty of internet evidence of past contractors, providers and their partners walking away from these ‘cheapest wins’ contracts when they realise that the main bidder can’t make a profit and/or when the spectre of penalty clauses looms into view.
Even if we accept this ‘chase the money and dodge the dole queue’ concept, how many of these small to medium sized organisations have survived the mine field of ‘Payment by Results’ where their financial relief is often very short lived and at the cost of their previous good reputations? The smaller you are, the less volume your voice has when it comes to settling your invoices. One man’s credit balance is another man’s overdraft. And how many of these small organisations have the financial ‘legs’ or the unrestricted reserves to enter into speculative contracts - often a direct contradiction of their governing documents - where they might or might not be paid, compromising their management committees ‘limited liability’ as they do so.
I fear that these latest Transforming Rehabilitation contracts will, yet again, deliver a number of master classes in ‘massage’ when it comes to outputs, outcomes and invoicing and even more cases of some very big dogs wagging a considerable number of very disillusioned and hungry small tails as the true costs of rehabilitation and resettlement become apparent and the spreadsheets are regularly rewritten in red.
As these mainly ‘private sector led and the voluntary sector follows’ contracts pervade every public service in our day to day lives, central government paints itself into a financial corner, wholly of its own making. Mrs Thatcher’s TINA policy - There Is No Alternative - has, with the decimation of the voluntary sector in penal-related work, led to the birth of a daughter, TRINA - There Really Is No Alternative. It is a matter of time and resource-availability until private sector providers sit opposite central government commissioners and tell them the sum that they are prepared to accept to pick up the contract from the hands of the commissioners. The ethos of ‘supply and demand’ - you supply the contract and we will demand the price you will pay - will become the norm rather than the exception. Pursuit of excellence will fade and die since there will be no other choice of provider.
Something I noticed from a week or so ago should serve to remind us of the chaos yet to come:-
I heard recently of a case who had emailed Interserve Finance Dept. purporting to be from a subcontractor asking them to make future payment for the work to a new account. No points for guessing who's account that was! In all they paid the sum of £132,000 into his account! Best of all they didn't even notice. It was only when the bank queried the payment that the theft was picked up. Doesn't say much for their Corporate Governance or risk assessments!
More on legal aid:-
Cuts to the civil legal aid budget are not delivering better value for money for the taxpayer, the UK’s top spending watchdog has found.
The National Audit Office’s review of cuts to civil legal aid, on track to deliver savings of £300m, concluded that the Ministry of Justice had not done enough to consider the wider implications of such speedy and drastic cost savings. The ministry “has been slower to think through how and why people access civil legal aid”, Amyas Morse, head of the audit office, said in a statement published with Thursday’s report. “Without this understanding, the ministry’s implementation of the reforms to civil legal aid cannot be said to have delivered better overall value for money for the taxpayer. ”The audit office estimates that the cuts have resulted in more people going to court without legal representation, leading to lengthy and costly delays.
There has been a 30 per cent rise in family court cases where neither side is represented by a lawyer, according to the NAO’s statistics. The watchdog estimates that the taxpayer will have to shoulder £3.4m in extra costs from such delays, according to the report. The ministry had forecast that the cuts would result in more family cases going to mediation and fewer to court. Instead, the number of cases going to mediation fell 56 per cent, or 17,246, in 2013-14 compared with the previous year.
The MoJ said: “We had one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world at around £2bn per year. Given the financial crisis inherited by this government there was no choice but to find significant savings. This report confirms we are doing just that. “This was never going to be an easy process, but we have made the necessary reductions whilst ensuring legal aid remains available where people most need legal help. ”The report’s findings are the latest blow to the ministry’s overhaul of legal aid, which has sparked two walkouts by barristers, the first in living memory, and a judicial review. The High Court ruled in September that the justice ministry acted illegally over a consultation carried out before announcing parallel cuts to the criminal legal aid budget.
Thursday’s report by the audit office scrutinised only the civil legal aid budget. Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Commons public accounts committee, accused the MoJ of being “out of touch with reality”. She said: “Achieving value for money is not just about cutting costs.” Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow justice secretary said: “This damning report by the National Audit Office completely exposes David Cameron’s reckless assault on access to justice for what it really is: bad value for money and leaving hundreds of thousands without proper legal advice.”I'll end with an apology concerning comment moderation. I've introduced this reluctantly in order to stop irritating contributions from a self-described and very unhappy SOTP attender who was attempting to hijack discussion. So, please be patient, but there will inevitably be a delay between submitting a comment and seeing it published. Such is the reality of life I'm afraid.