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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

October 7, 2009: Justice Secretary Addresses Prison Governors

Jack Straw MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, has addressed the Prison Governors Association. Crimlinks prints his speech in full below:

"In this speech, I want to set out:

  • how far we have come in the last decade in transforming prisons and what prison is about
  • the challenges we now face
  • how ministers want to work with you to meet those challenges."

Jack Straw

"We have done a great deal in the last 10 years – and I know that it is governors at the sharp end. I know too that I can be candid with you because of what you have achieved. You have been asked to make some significant changes and are going to be asked – indeed expected – to deliver more. These achievements bear repeating."

"We are clear about what prison is for. It is a place for punishment and reform. It is a punishment, but it must offer people the chance to change. We have an obligation to offenders, but a fundamental one to the public."

"We have made sure the most dangerous and persistent offenders are locked up for longer. We are protecting the public."

"The prison population has risen. But so has our capacity to house it. And our building programme will enable us to manage the projected demand: 25,000 extra places over the last 12 years,1,700 this year and to reach a 96,000 capacity by 2014."

"And the estate is considerably more secure. Yes, there was a serious disturbance at Ashwell within the last year, a disturbance handled very well by the service. But this is a million miles from the catalogue of incidents and escapes of previous decade. I utter a daily prayer that I am not going to be punished for even tempting providence, but it is worth recording that there has been no category A escape since 1995. It is also worth noting that there were as many escapes in a week in the early 1990s as there now are in a year. Indeed, at that time there were so many escapes that, rather than bothering the Secretary of State as they occurred, private offices would simply put in a routine note in the weekend box."

"The prisoners’ regime has changed too. It is more decent, more humane and more constructive than ten years ago, with greater opportunities for prisoners to take the chance to turn their lives around. Drug treatment has increased tenfold, education and health are now in the hands of the experts, with record numbers completing educational, behavioural or skills courses. Most encouragingly of all, adult reoffending has gone down by over 20% since 2000 and juvenile reoffending by nearly 24%."

"We have backed this up with investment too. £1.2 billion more invested in prisons compared to 1996-97 – a real terms increase of 42%. And a further £1 billion in the current spending review dedicated to the Carter capacity building programme."

"Changes of this magnitude go hand in hand with change to the way in which we deliver services. This was part of the rationale for NOMS [National Offender Management Service] itself: an integrated criminal justice system. And I want to talk later on about the way in which we can improve the way in different parts of NOMS, from HQ to the delivery arms of the department work together."

All this has only been possible thanks to the commitment and dedication of everyone who works in the prison service. I recognise the demands – especially on the governor grades, the people who have to deliver change. Running prisons is a tough job and you can be proud of the way you delivered change and provided high quality services – meeting all your performance indicators is no mean feat. So I salute your commitment and thank you for it."

"But I am not with you on the proposition that all sentences of 12 months or less be served in the community, where it is appropriate. I am a champion of punishment in the community, but with every respect to those who have proposed it in good faith, it would not work as its advocates have suggested, even if it were the correct policy, which I would dispute. It is more likely that, rather than sending more offenders into probation, offenders who merited a custodial sentence would simply be given a year and a day."

"Today I will set out to you how we continue to provide services to the same high standards – but do so in an extremely challenging financial environment right across government. How we will continue to focus on delivering front line services, so we meet our obligation to protect, punish and reform. This is going to mean continuing change, but change is a fact of life. Ultimately we have to live within our means. And this means ministers need to make some tough choices."

"The bottom line for any public service is always how we best use each pound from the taxpayers’ pocket, so efficiency and effectiveness should always be uppermost in our minds. This is nothing new – Parliament was born out of the need to raise and monitor taxes. We have put money in over the last decade and we have seen results in return. But as you know, the landscape has changed. The Ministry of Justice has already had to find ways to save around £1 billion before March 2011 to live within its means. Everyone in the department has had to think carefully about what it spends its money on and why."

"NOMS had to play its part in this, finding savings of £171 million this year, an amount in proportion to its size in the department. Within NOMS the Prison Service has to find £65 million or 3.4%, the Probation Service £20 million or 2.2%. And NOMS HQ is taking a greater burden than other areas – a 13% efficiency saving this year."

"Other areas of Ministry of Justice face savings proportionately as great: Access to Justice – including the courts system and legal aid – had to find savings of £236 million or 6.8% of its budget in 2009-10."

"The next cross-government spending review is going to be tougher. The challenges it will present will not just impact upon the Ministry of Justice, but on other government departments as well. But our obligation is to the people of this country. Our commitment to providing high quality public services remains – as do the values which underpin them. But to keep services at the level at which we want them, we are going to have to extract even more from every pound of public money."

"Some of you have heard me make the comparison between the drive for efficiency savings in the public sector and in manufacturing industry. But it is worth making again. Of course, I am aware of the risks of arguing by analogy, but there is an essential point which we all need to appreciate. Both the public and private sectors are similar in that they devote a huge amount of time and money to process in order to achieve a particular outcome."

"What manufacturing industry has had to learn in order to survive is to save costs on process, as well as enhancing the product. I have seen this in my own constituency with firms large and small, which have looked over the precipice of bankruptcy and have resolved that if they are going to survive – as most have done – they have simply got to improve their efficiency. In some cases the savings in costs have been extraordinary. And they have only been able to make this a shared endeavour because the alternatives have been so much worse. It has required people to change their labour practices and in some cases it has even meant short term pay reductions. But the consequences have been greater job security, greater responsibility and greater job satisfaction. The public sector – including prisons and probation – has to learn similar lessons."

"This will require leadership. It will need imagination and innovation from us all, whether we are ministers or officials."

"HQ and ministers are going to play their part. Ministers will set the direction and be held accountable for the decisions they make."

"We do not want to get in the way of delivery. We look to you to get on, to manage and to deliver. So we want to make sure that as much of our resources as possible go to the front line. Thus HQ spending this year is down by £20 million. Next year, it is going to be asked to make further significant savings."

"NOMS is also looking at ways of rebalancing how HQ and the frontline work together so we are reducing administrative burdens, getting audit requirements (especially asked for by governors) to the lowest level possible and making support in the day-to-day management of offenders by frontline staff easier."

"And elsewhere we are looking at other ways of doings things better – by learning from good practice or from consolidating administration, such as through your Shared Service Centre in Newport: comparing like with like to make sure we are making the best use of resources and creating clusters of prisons where it makes sense to do so."

"This is change to find the most effective, efficient way for you to get on with the core elements of your work. As part of this, I want you to look at innovation in your establishments to find efficiency savings – using the same flair and imagination that establishments have shown in setting up programmes to reduce reoffending. I know of examples of this and I want to see more of them. If we can find ways of doing things better we want to get on with it and roll it out across the service."

"This is good stuff, but it will not avoid the need to look at wider efficiency savings right across NOMS too. Our greatest asset is our staff: their commitment, their vocation and for their achievements. But staff account for 80% of NOMS spending. It must follow that we need to look closely at how we structure that workforce, to be sure that the right people are doing the right jobs at the right grades in the right places."

"You all know the outcome of the discussions about workforce modernisation. This was a missed opportunity, not least because it was the chance for the prison service to show it could reform of its own accord. Moreover, it was a very good offer in the current climate. By contrast, the Chancellor confirmed this week that the government’s evidence to the Prison Service Pay Review Body for 2010 – as for other comparable groups – will be for awards in the range of zero to one per cent, while honouring existing multi-year deals. The failure of our discussions on reform means, for NOMS, not being able to reform as quickly as we would have wanted, and, for staff, the loss of an additional £50 million in the pay pot and a multi-year deal."

"The fact is that, because no agreement was reached, we have to look elsewhere to maintain standards and contain spending. But we do so from a more difficult start line: change must be delivered, but without the £50million for pay on the table before."

"First, we must identify what we want to be delivered."

"The ratio between numbers working on frontline delivery and elsewhere will vary across the estate, but just comparing the differences between otherwise similar prisons in sickness and staffing, as well as apparently prosaic matters like the amount of time spent in meetings, underlines the amount that can and will have to be saved without affecting the delivery of these services – the protection of the public and reform of offenders. If every prison and probation establishment were performing at the standard already achieved by the top quartile the savings would be dramatic. By the end of 2011 specifications will have been drawn up for services right across NOMS. We know across the prison service what we expect from establishments and what it should cost. Authority for that delivery will be devolved; it will after all be for governors to make sure they meet the required standards."

"Second, we need to put in place the right management structures to help delivery."

"From the start of October new prison officers will have new terms and conditions so we can get better control of the paybill for our largest group of staff. The Principal Officer Grade has been closed since April."

"Commonsense alone requires that we need to look at the management chain: six layers of management in some establishments is just not a sensible way to run a prison. Sorting this out means clearer communication, from HQ and from establishments; and better communication means better delivery."

"We are looking to reduce the proportion of management grades to total staff to no more than 19% over five years. This is not about making managers work longer hours, but to help them do so as efficiently and effectively as possible. I can find no correlation between management numbers and performance between prisons, and several establishments are already operating below 19%. Therefore I can see no reason why this cannot be rolled out across the board."

"The failure to agree on workforce modernisation also means moving to market testing. I could not have been clearer about this during our negotiations."

"Whether one wants to starts from here or not, the truth is that the standards across the public service – from bins and street cleaning to the top end of the health service – have been secured and driven up through an element of competition. I would have preferred this to have been secured through modernisation within the public sector, but this has not proved possible. I regret this. But I am obliged to find ways of maintaining the standards the public has come to expect with the resources I have available to me."

"I am confident that NOMS will be putting forward its own strong bids alongside private sector ones, and I want this to be informed by positive engagement from the union side."

"There is however no point of our approach which is about reducing the status of managers and governors. Our reforms are absolutely not about ‘dumbing down’. To those who suggest it is, I ask this: how could we expect governors to deliver more if we downgrade the skills we expect of them or the restrict their freedom to get on with the job? This is the reverse of what we are about."

"You are valued. But it is worth bearing in mind that this is against a backdrop of private sector workers looking on the public sector with something approaching envy. The fact that recruitment has never been easier and turnover never lower serves to emphasise my point."

"I have set out today what we have done, why we have to continue to change the way we work and what reforms we therefore need to pursue. I value your immense contribution to what has been achieved in the prison system. I can have the best policy in the world, but without serious committed professionals in prison establishments it amounts to nothing but a paper exercise. I know your commitment to your work and you should be proud of what you have achieved. And this means I am confident that I can look to you in the future too. I want you to engage with change and the challenges it presents. There are bound to be concerns, but I have been open with you about the financial context and I will be open about reform too. Because being open means we will be better placed to work differences through, so we can continue to provide high quality services and live within our means. If you can think of better ways of doing things within the reality of the constraints we all face, we want to know."

"Students of ‘Yes Minister’ will recall that civil servants believe that the best way of putting a minister off a policy is to describe it as ‘courageous’. I disagree. To me this means rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck into something new, challenging and maybe uncomfortable – but getting stuck into something that is the right thing to do. That, I suggest, is where we are now. That too is what the public expect of us."