St Albans campaigners’ fresh hope in battle to save probation

Anne Main MP

Anne Main MP - Credit: Archant

A small note of encouragement has emerged from a petition on proposed changes to the probation service which was presented in the House of Commons by St Albans MP Anne Main.

Mrs Main agreed to present the petition after an approach from the union Napo, which had been collecting signatures on a petition in St Albans city centre voicing concerns that privatisation proposals for the service meant there might no longer be a probation presence in the city.

The government wants 70 per cent of the work of the probation service nationally to be outsourced to private companies with only those considered to be high risk offenders still being dealt with by the existing service.

In his response to Mrs Main following the handover of the petition in July, Sir Alan Beith, chairman of the justice committee, said it had taken evidence on the proposals in February but it had not reported its views on them.

Sir Alan explained that the committee was currently undertaking “a substantial inquiry” into government policies for reducing crime and would be taking evidence over the next couple of months prior to a report around the end of the year.

St Albans branch secretary of Napo, Gordon Jackson, said: “While the government response is similar to what I have heard before, I am encouraged by the response by the chair of the Justice Select Committee that these issues will be looked at by the committee once Parliament returns from the summer recess.”

A lunchtime walkout is being held from 12.30pm to 1.30pm today at the St Albans probation service offices in Victoria Street to coincide with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s expected announcement of the sell-off of part of the service to private companies Serco and G4S. Members of Napo and Unison will be joined by MEP Richard Howitt to protest at what they see as a potential risk to members of the public.