Outraged probation workers staged a demonstration yesterday over Government privatisation plans.
Staff gathered outside Newcastle Crown Court on the city’s Quayside to show their anger at proposals to hand 70% of their workload to the private sector.
The protest was timed to coincide with the Ministry of Justice opening the bidding from private and voluntary sectors.
The plan is for the low-risk offence workload to be put in the hands of private companies.
Among those at the rally was Blaydon’s Labour MP, Dave Anderson.
Mr Anderson said there was “no logical reason” behind the proposed takeover.
He said: “We need to know how vital this service is.
“Unfortunately, like so much else in the country at the minute, this Government is completely and utterly against the public sector and this is being driven by nothing more than ideology.
“This has nothing to do with quality of service, nothing to do with cost of service.
“There’s no evidence anywhere in the world that the private sector could do the job better.
“If and when this goes wrong, then not only is it detrimental in terms of the people that need to be looked after by proper professionals, but it will have an impact on our communities, because we’ll have people out there who shouldn’t be there.”
The rally started at noon and was organised by public service union Unison alongside engineering union the GMB and the National Association of Probation Officers.
It was in response to Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, who gave G4S and Serco the green light to bid for contracts for work valued at up to £450m.
Megan Elliot, vice-chair of the National Association of Probation Officers, joined in the rally.
The 57-year-old said: “Our job is to protect the public. It’s to reduce re-offending and that work is just going to be handed over on a commercial contract.
“There’s no clarity about what’s going to happen.
“The probation service is one of those public sector services that gets on with its job quietly in the corner and nobody is really conscious of all the work that we do.
“The service actually won the Gold Medal for Excellence in 2011. It’s usually given to private companies but we are the only public sector company to have won that award.
“That was only two years ago and now they’re saying we don’t do the job very well. We’ll continue to campaign for as long as it takes.”