The Curmudgeon


Sunday, May 05, 2013

Hard Sell

The latest spasm from the Minister of Justice and Heterosexual Hostelry, Chris Graybeing, is apparently giving rise to one or two concerns. The Government claims (or believes, as the Observer's psychic correspondent hath it) that re-offending rates will be reduced if the probation service is largely flogged off to the private sector, leaving the state to deal only with the most difficult and tabloid-unsympathetic cases. Precedents are not lacking: we all know how delays and fatal accidents were reduced by privatising the railways, how bills and profiteering have been reduced by privatising the utilities, and how security at the Olympics was enhanced by handing it over to G4S, one of the candidates for running the new Probation PLC.

As might be expected, there are rumblings of discontent from the relevant trade union, which predicts that staff will be reluctant to exchange their gold-plated pensions and company cars for leaner, meaner contracts with the likes of G4S or Serco. The union says (or claims, as the Observer's nuanced correspondent hath it) that there will be thousands of attempts to despoil Graybeing's bargain basement, leading to "legal and bureaucratic tangles for months on end". Doubtless Graybeing will have the simple answer that befits his refined and subtle intellect: he'll follow the example of his brilliant colleague, Iain Duncan Smith, and push through a law making everything all right. Nevertheless, there remains a militant hard core within the Ministry of Tough which is expressing concern about the way offenders with mental health problems will be treated. Seventy per cent of probation service customers have complex mental health problems, and it is not at all clear how the companies will be able to assess them profitably. Going by past form, Graybeing's answer will most likely be that in the unlikely event of difficulties arising the taxpayer will intervene to buy the stormtroopers bigger coshes.


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