Government sees sense and abandons its justice fines privatisation

There was very welcome news this morning that the Ministry of Justice no longer intends to privatise the collection and enforcement of criminal court fines.

This comes after a hard fought campaign over the last five years to stop the plans led by my union PCS.

Tensions over the privatisation plans had intensified over recent months due to the introduction of the criminal courts charge. The mandatory fine has led to resignations by Magistrates and a vote in the House of Lords opposing the controversial charge which was introduced under Chris Grayling.

Last month Francis Crook the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform wrote to the only remaining bidder, Concentrix, urging them to withdraw from the process.

Further concerns had been raised over the suitability of Concentrix after it had failed to deliver on a contract tackling fraud on behalf of HMRC.

Just before summer recess 27 MPs, including new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, signed a motion opposing the privatisation.

This isn’t the first welcome U-turn to take place in the MoJ this week. On Tuesday the Saudi Arabian prison contract was abandoned and there is speculation in today’s Independent that Michael Gove is considering withdrawing the criminal courts charge.

There is still a long way to go in clearing up the mess Grayling left of but this latest news is definitely a step in the right direction.

Those of you that regularly read my blog (an exclusive bunch) will know that I’ve covered this issue regularly.

Having met with PCS members who work in fines offices I know how stressful the last few years have been. It is a pity it took so long for the government to come to the right decision. A great deal of stress, not to mention taxpayers’ expense, could have been avoided.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said today:

“Finally, our years of campaigning have produced the result we fought for. We are delighted for our members who will remain civil servants and have the opportunity to continue to prove how well they do this work, including their success in collecting £550 million in fines and other financial impositions in the last year, though it should not have taken so long for their voices to be heard.”

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