Delay to reform suggests rethink

The government is believed to be rethinking its plans for more “contestability” in the probation service after widespread opposition.

It is thought that legislation to implement the plans, which was expected to be introduced to parliament this week, has been delayed, although there is still confusion over the status of the reforms.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of probation union Napo, said he had been told to expect a statement last Wednesday (18 January) from the National Offender Management Service (Noms) confirming the reforms would be delayed.

But this did not materialise and the Home Office would say only that it had yet to make a decision about which bill would contain the proposals.

Fletcher suggested that most respondents to a consultation on restructuring probation, which ended in December, opposed the government’s plans.

More than 100 MPs have also signed an early day motion, tabled in November by Labour MP Neil Gerrard, urging the government “not to franchise or privatise all or part” of the probation service.

Gerrard, who chairs the parliamentary all-party justice unions group, said: “We have spent the past two years trying to get some clarity and we feel at times it’s just being made up on the back of envelope.”

But he said a bill would be necessary for only some of the reforms, such as abolishing probation boards, and that the government had already established Noms without a bill.

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