Public sector probation trusts to be ruled out of bidding for probation services

Plans to privatise the probation service by excluding existing Probation Trusts from bidding to provide services is a scandal, UNISON said today.

As the National Offender Management Services (NOMS) confirmed that Probation Trusts will be prohibited from bidding to run the work they currently deliver as part of a widespread privatisation plan, the union accused Justice Minister Chris Grayling of deliberately dismantling the public Probation Service.

Ben Priestley, UNISON National Officer for Probation, commenting on the revelation, said: “We already know that the Government wants to privatise more than two thirds of the work of Probation Trusts, but preventing those trusts from even bidding for work they currently carry out is an astonishing admission of just how weighted this competition will be in favour of the Tories’ friends in the private sector.

“UNISON will be campaigning with others to over-turn the Government’s plans to privatise the Probation Service. With only 16,500 staff, probation is a tiny part of the justice system and to take the sledgehammer of privatisation to it is frankly criminal.

“NOMS has a truly terrible record in procurement with a long line of botched privatisations to show for it; to now seek to crudely exclude Probation Trusts from the planned competition process is anti-competitive and unfair.”

The Ministry plans to put 70% of probation work out to competition in 2015.

Probation Trusts were promised new freedoms by NOMS when they were formed out of the old Probation Boards in 2007, but the reality has been a sad erosion of the ability of Trusts to run their affairs to suit local needs and circumstances. As non-departmental public bodies, trusts have had to submit to stifling financial rules and regulations that have prevented innovative local initiatives.

UNISON suspects that the decision from NOMS was prompted by private sector lobbying. The result, if this policy is not reversed, will be that the private sector will have a free run at taking over the work of probation and the public Probation Service will have been destroyed.