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Officers' ballot results expected
The probation officers' union wi ll today reveal whether it is to take strike action for only the third time in its 101-year history, over Government plans to privatise the service.
The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) closed its ballot for industrial action, including strike action, yesterday and will reveal the result later this morning at its annual meeting in Llandudno.
The union previously registered a trade dispute over Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's proposals to transfer most of the service to private firms such as G4S and Serco.
Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: "We are extremely confident that we will get a positive result.
"Our members feel passionately about the work they do and the communities they serve.
"They know the Secretary of State's plans to privatise 70% of the probation service will put communities at risk, undermine public protection and fail to reduce re-offending."
Napo previously claimed negotiations with the Ministry of Justice over its Transforming Rehabilitation reforms had been ''seriously compromised'' as a result of the department's ''interference'' in the consultation on the proposals.
A package of £450 million-worth of contracts was last week offered up to private and voluntary sector organisations, covering the supervision of 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year on a payment-by-results basis.
Contracts are to be split across 20 English regions and one Welsh region, while the National Probation Service (NPS), a new public sector organisation, will be formed to deal with the rehabilitation of 31,000 high-risk offenders each year.
More than 700 organisations from across the world have expressed interest in the contracts, the MoJ said, including hundreds of British firms.
A Government-wide review of all contracts held by Serco and G4S, two of the country's biggest private providers of public services, is currently being conducted.
The audit, triggered by revelations that both firms had overcharged the Government for criminal-tagging contracts, prompted calls for the Ministry of Justice to abandon its plans to privatise the probation and prison service.
But it emerged that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling intended to allow Serco and G4S to bid for the probation service - but the firms will not be awarded anything u ntil the Government's audit is completed.
Napo has called for the proposals to be tested and claims recent reports from America, where some states have already outsourced their Probation Service, suggest there are concerns about how it operates.