Probation service in walkout over sell-off

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Dozens of probation service staff were protesting this week against service sell-off plans they warn could put the public at risk.

Gathered outside Chesterfield magistrates court on Tuesday, more than 40 members of the Derbyshire branch joined a nationwide strike against the coalition’s plans to privatise 70 per cent of the service.

Ed Liegis, probation officer and the area’s union representative, said: “We are trying to raise public awareness. We want to try and put the government on the back foot and make them realise that what they are doing is shambolic.

“The new privatised service will be profit-driven. It will mean box ticking, rushing things through. Staff wont get the training they do at the moment.

“It is going to put the public at risk.”

The £800m privatisation will see the current 35 probation trusts disbanded, to create 21 private sector Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC). A slimlined probation service will be retained to deal exclusively with ‘high risk’ offenders.

Ed, who is based at the service’s offices on Brimington Road, added: “There has been an 11 per cent reduction in crime in Derbyshire in the last 12 months. That’s what we have been achieving.

“The service works, but we are being taken over for no reason whatsoever.”

Tania Bassett, National Association of Probation Officers, said:“We made the decision to strike as we feel that the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, will put communities at risk by fragmenting the service.

“Risk levels are a dynamic thing. It can change in a matter of hours. Separating the service in this way is going to put the public and service users at risk.”

Bidding for the sell-off is currently underway. What do you think of the plans? Email