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Stop the Privatisation of the Probation Service

15th September 2014

Stop the Privatisation of the Probation Service

Chris Grayling, currently Minister of ‘Justice’, is bidding for the title of the biggest rogue on earth. He is desperate to privatise the probation service, despite the repeated failure of past privatisations.
It costs £38,000 a year to keep someone in prison, more than sending them to Eton.  Grayling’s predecessor Ken Clarke wanted to save the taxpayer a lot of money by rehabilitating criminals in the community. Good idea – rehabilitation has a better record at preventing reoffending than prison. But rehabilitation requires a properly funded probation service with trained professionals. Instead Grayling is determined to outsource 70% of probation service work to the usual suspects such as G4S and Serco. Probation chiefs fear the Tories plan to slash their budgets by £125 million - 25% - over the next four years. So this is all about saving money.

Except that Grayling’s privatisation plans are going to cost us bucket loads of money. He has instructed his civil servants to draw up contracts with ‘poison pill’ clauses. If the contracts are rescinded – as Labour is committed to do – taxpayers will face a penalty 0f £300-400milion. This is outrageous. Grayling is deliberately penalising us, and future democratically elected governments, for opposing privatisation.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, has confirmed that poison pill clauses have been inserted in the contracts. She is appalled at this blatant waste of money and instructed the National Audit Office to challenge contracts. She declares, “It is not value for money. It is unacceptable and must be challenged before the event.”

Two lucky recipient of Grayling’s largesse at our expense are likely to be G4S and Serco. They have been named as preferred bidders for the community rehabilitation contracts. They should not be entitled to have their snouts in the trough. The firms are currently under investigation for fraud in overcharging the government for an electronic tagging contract. G4S overcharged at least £109m for tagging prisoners, some of whom were dead and some outside the country. This is an indication of the quality of work we can expect from the firm if it lands the job.

Grayling promised Parliament that G4S and Serco would be awarded no new contracts till the investigation had taken its course. Grayling’s privatisation project is enveloped in scandal. This is the economics of slash and burn. Privatisation of the probation service must be stopped.

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