Mark Leftly: A privatisation that should stay under lock and key


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Westminster Outlook Interserve’s managing director of justice services, Yvonne Thomas, has tried to ease the concerns of the 2,000 probation personnel being take on by the outsourcing group as part of the Purple Futures partnership.

Yesterday, Interserve confirmed it had been awarded contracts worth £600m to take over five probation services.

The run-up to the privatisation has been fraught with all sorts of problems, including IT failures, that have compromised public safety. Ms Thomas at least admitted that “the past months have been a period of anxiety” for many officers, but she was wrong to say that Purple Futures is “acquiring a very stable operation from the Probation Service”.

Morale is at an extraordinary low among officers across the service; they are furious that they are about to become part of the private sector and believe that the Coalition’s reforms are dangerous.

The leaders of the companies that will now run 70 per cent of the service don’t understand the challenge they now face to appease the staff, or the level of disorganisation that these reforms have caused.

The fight to block this botched privatisation appears lost, particularly now a judicial review has been withdrawn. So we can only hope that the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, was right all along – and virtually every other expert was wrong – that introducing commercial skills will somehow reduce reoffending rates.