Headlines: June 5th, 2007

CALL FOR GREATER ROLE FOR COUNCILS IN OFFENDER MANAGEMENT

 

A warning has been issued that Government plans for changes to the system of offender management, which are due to be debated in the House of Lords today, could lead to a rise in rates of reoffending. In a new pamphlet, The New Local Government Network calls for a stronger role for local councils in reducing the problem.

The pamphlet claims that the Offender Management Bill “risks being insensitive to local needs” and could exclude the important local knowledge of councillors in commissioning probation services. Local guidance and expertise is vital, it says, in reducing reoffending, particularly because most crime is committed in an offender’s own local area. It points to figures from Sheffield which show half of crimes happen with two miles on the offender’s home.

The Bill seeks to introduce greater competition into the probation service by allowing private and voluntary sectors to run contracts. Other reforms would see Regional Offender Manager posts being created to commission and map offender management. The pamphlet, “Reducing Reoffending: Creating the Right Framework”, does not argue against more contestability but it questions the thinking behind moving responsibility from a local to regional level and it calls instead for local government to be given a stronger role in managing offender reduction.

The paper also sets out a framework for Regional Offender Managers to be integrated in local authority Local Area Agreements and for a duty on new Probation Trusts to co-operate with local councils. That, it says, would help to ensure offender management was embedded in the strategic planning of all local services.

The pamphlet’s authors argue, “Local authorities have a unique understanding of, and sensitivity to, community needs and attitudes through their responsibility for engaging public opinion. They are thus best placed to create a consensus on policy, and explain where public money is being spent and why”.