Privatisation plans put public ‘at risk’

Members of Blackpool UNISON and NAPO from the Lancashire Probation Trust Blackpool Office on Talbot Road. Ellen Owens (left) and Joyce Maher.

Members of Blackpool UNISON and NAPO from the Lancashire Probation Trust Blackpool Office on Talbot Road. Ellen Owens (left) and Joyce Maher.

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Public safety is under threat from plans to sell off part of the probation service, union bosses in Blackpool have warned.

Staff working in Blackpool joined others around the country in staging a walk-out yesterday in protest against the plans, which would also see jobs put at risk.

Neal Brookes, chairman of the North West branch of Unison, said 100 jobs are likely to be lost across Lancashire if the current plans go ahead.

He warned industrial action is likely if the government does not change its mind.

He said: “Communities are being put at risk – we supervise offenders to protect the public, not on the basis of profit.”

He warned private companies could undermine their work with potentially violent criminals in a bid to drive down costs.

He added: “We are being blamed for re offending rates we have no opportunity to influence.”

He said a large number of criminals who re-offend were sentenced to less than 12 months in jail, meaning the probation service was not allowed to supervise them.

Government plans would see the national probation service and private companies split the work currently done in regional offices.

Joyce Maher, who works at the Talbot Road office, said: “I can’t see that it’s going to work the way the government wants it to. Why change what is already working?”

The Ministry of Justice has said the contracts for supervising low and medium-risk offenders will be performance-based to ensure the public gets value for money.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “Each year around 600,000 crimes are committed by those who have already broken the law – that is a dreadful figure and I am determined to bring it down.

“The public will finally benefit from the best of the private and voluntary sectors, working together with the public sector, to cut re-offending.”

An e-petition calling for the privatisation plans to be shelved has already attracted more than 25,000 signatures.