Crime in Bedfordshire could rise as a result of the Government’s planned privatisation of probation, according to Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins.
He has made the statement ahead of an address to a rally in Bedford of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) today as the members take strike action from noon.
The protest is against Government plans to privatise up to 70% of the service.
Commissioner Martins said: “The Government’s privatisation of probation will smash the excellent partnership work that, by working with some of our most prolific and persistent re-offenders, has helped cut crime in Bedfordshire by more than the national average in the last couple of years.
“Without this work the offenders who cause most harm will simply continue to commit crime and make more people victims.”
Under the privatisation plans, the day-to-day management of 200,000 offenders nationwide who have been released in the community will be handed over to private companies. They include firms such as G4S and Serco – the same firms that stand accused of overcharging the Government tens of millions of pounds on electronic tagging of offenders.
Commissioner Martins added: “I am a strong advocate of tackling the revolving door of the criminal justice system but before any widespread changes are implemented I would like to see the evidence that they will actually deliver results rather than just destroy what we have already.
“In my view the Government’s plans have simply not been thought through and the reckless pace with which they are being introduced threatens to destroy the excellent work our Integrated Offender Management (IOM) partnership has done since 2011.
“Bedfordshire Probation Trust contributes 45% of the resources to this pioneering initiative that brings together probation, the police, local authorities, drug projects and a range of other agencies including from the community and voluntary sector. This partnership is amongst the top 10 performing IOM programmes in the country.
“But in just six months’ time our probation trust will be abolished and there is no guarantee that the private company that replaces it will match the trust’s commitment to IOM. Indeed, there is no incentive for the private sector to invest in IOM under the ‘Payment by Results’ regime proposed by the government.
Commissioner Martins has added his support to calls for the Government to reconsider its plans to privatise probation. In his view and those of a growing number of other professionals, the unproven nature of the changes and the breakneck speed with which government is implementing them pose a grave risk to public safety.
Ahead of the debate on the matter in the House of Commons on Wednesday, October 30, 13 Labour Police and Crime Commissioners wrote to the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling asking him to think again.
The debate was called by Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan and marks the first time that Parliament has had a chance to scrutinise the proposals.
Commissioner Martins added: “We all want to cut crime and make our communities safer, but I think there are more effective and less risky ways to do this than dismantling our local probation trusts.
“I would also like to see how these proposals work in practice as a series of pilot schemes or trials, when there is still a route out of trouble if they don’t work as well as expected. To have no option for a Plan B seems foolhardy.
“I urge Chris Grayling to listen to the concerns which have been expressed about these plans across the board and work with police, Probation Trusts and other agencies to look at innovative ways to lower reoffending that do not endanger the public.”