Congress calls for inquiry into probation sell off

UNISON members are battling a government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, Caryl Nobbs told the TUC Congress in Bournemouth this morning.

“Actually, I take that back: They don’t even know the price – not the price of public safety or justice or the costs of rehabiliation.

“It’s why the private sector have been able to get away with undelivered contracts and profits made at the expense of our members and the public purse,” she said.

As congress called for an independent inquiry into the privatisation of the probation service, Ms Nobbs, who is the chair of the union’s police and justice group, damned the government’s claims of “private-sector efficiency”.

She reminded delegates that if such claims had sounded hollow after last year’s Olympic security G4S debacle, the police are now investigating “potential fraud by Serco in the running of its prisoner escort services,” while “Serco and G4S have also been systematically overcharging for electronic tagging on other multi-million pound contracts”.

A UNISON survey in July found that 62% of the public rejected police privatisation – and that was before those latest scandals surfaced.

Ms Nobbs said that, “together with our sister unions and local community groups, we fought successful local campaigns around the PCC elections to make them a referendum on police privatisation.

“Now we need to fight again to stop the sell-off of probation services,” she continued.

“This motion highlights how disastrous privatising probation services would be. It will introduce a profit motive to an essential and sensitive area of public services.

“It would be a disaster – and it’s not just trade unionists who think so. Lord Ramsbotham, the former prisons inspector, has condemned the plans and says they are a ‘complete distortion of the whole criminal justice system’.”

She reminded delegates that plans for “payment by results remains untried and untested – not just in the UK but in the OECD nations. There’s a very good reason for that.”

Key issue: Probation: keep it public and local

UNISON in the police and justice sector

Press release: Probation workers reject privatisation