Kenneth Clarke (Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State, Justice; Rushcliffe, Conservative)
In the range of community sentences, Community Payback is primarily a punishment. It also enables offenders to be reformed and to make reparation for their crimes by doing unpaid work which benefits the community. We want to improve Community Payback provision through innovation, higher standards of quality in delivery and better value for the taxpayer. We also want to increase public confidence in this sentence so that offenders are seen to be punished for their crime, to make amends for the damage caused to individuals and communities and to be prepared for an honest hard-working life after the end of their sentence.
We seek to ensure that, in delivering Community Payback, we open up public services to draw on the skills and innovative capacity of the private, voluntary and social enterprise sectors. In June 2011 we launched a competition for the provision of Community Payback services in the London Probation Area. This opened the way for three private sector bidders to compete for the provision of these services. This is the first time that a major area of probation work has been opened up to the private sector through a competitive bidding exercise. It follows that the contract award that I am announcing today represents a significant step forward in using competition to improve the delivery of probation services, in line with the proposals set out in the Green Paper “Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders”.
The winner of the competition to provide Community Payback services in the London Probation Area is Serco. The winning bid delivers substantial savings to the taxpayer of £25 million (37 %) over the life of the four-year contract. They will work closely with a range of providers to deliver the service, including London Probation Trust. The new contract arrangements will see greater involvement of local communities in how Community Payback services are delivered in their areas. There will also be better coordination of services across London as a result of the establishment of a dedicated control centre to oversee operations on a day to day and real time basis. The new service will begin in October this year. The contract will run for four years initially. We expect to re-compete the service after that.
Serco will have a number of contractual and delivery requirements to meet, which are intended to raise the performance and quality of service provision. These
include offenders being allocated to work promptly after sentence, offenders successfully completing their Community Payback requirement and where they do not comply, enforcement action being taken quickly. Work has to be visible and of demonstrable benefit to local communities.
As I have indicated, the result of this competition shows that it is possible to achieve considerable savings on the current cost of Community Payback provision while at the same time developing other non-financial benefits such as innovation in the delivery of the service, higher quality, improved compliance, more rapid commencement and intensive working for unemployed offenders. We are also expecting to see wider engagement with the public which will improve levels of confidence in the Community Payback service. Overall, our intention is to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system while reducing the cost to the taxpayer.
I turn now to updating the House on our wider programme of offender services competitions.
A key element of the “Open Public Services” White Paper published last year was that the provision of public services would be opened up to a wider variety of organisations as part of the Government’s commitment to improving the quality of public services. Competition not only promotes greater diversity in our provider base, but is also a powerful driver of more efficient and effective offender services. The Ministry of Justice’s “Offender Services Competition Strategy” published a year ago is making this policy a reality.
In the “Competition Strategy” I made a commitment to publish an annual update. The update covers activity on offender services competitions over the past year, gives an overview of current activity, and lists competitions that we plan to run in the following 12 months. It will be clear from the update that this amounts to a large and continuing programme of activity.
As well as the Community Payback competition in London, the update covers Prisons Competitions Phases One and Two, Prisoner Escort and Custody Services, Electronic Monitoring, Payment by Results pilots and the Offender Learning and Skills Services.
In relation to custodial services, for example, we have already completed the competitions for four prisons (HMP Birmingham, HMP Buckley Hall, HMP Doncaster, and HMP Oakwood) and we expect these to generate significant savings of £216 million over the life of the contracts A further nine prisons are currently subject to competition and we expect to award contracts in November this year. At that time we also expect to announce the custodial services that will be subject to competition in the next phase of our reform programme.
For community based offender services, we are engaged in a major competition to improve and enhance electronic monitoring, with contract award planned for early 2013.In the autumn we will publish our response to the consultation on “Punishment and Reform: effective probation services” setting out how we will accelerate a wider programme of competition for non-custodial services.
This Government are committed to public service reform and the success of our programme to date demonstrates how competition can be used effectively to open up the market, stimulate innovation and improvement and reduce cost to the taxpayer.
Copies of the annual update have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The document is also available on the Ministry of Justice website.