National Chair

Issue 63 | 08.03.2010

Benchmarking Specification and Costing Programme


Dear Colleagues

On 27th April 2009, the announcement by Jack Straw in the House of Commons and the subsequent open letter from Robin Wilkinson, in respect of Workforce Change and Market Testing contributed to the decision of the NEC to withdraw from the above process.

Despite our objections and non co-operation NOMS has pressed ahead with the programme in an attempt to obtain “best value for money” and put in place systems which are justifiable to the Government, all as a result of the 2007 Carter report into prisons.

In January, the NEC determined that we as a Union would re-engage in the Benchmarking, Specification and Costing programme. As National Chairman, I established a sub committee of the Executive, to progress this work on a “without prejudice” basis. On 4th March, the first meeting occurred and further work is scheduled for the future.

I am aware that the services teams have visited branches as they look to draw up new specifications for NOMS to evaluate and redraft policies. All new policies will be subject to consultation at national and local level under the current provisions for change, although we are still negotiating a new disputes agreement with representatives of NOMS. Concerns have been raised by local committees with the NEC when the teams visit prisons. Local committees should engage with the Specification teams on a without prejudice basis. A request should be made to your Governor for facility time under joint interest so that members of the committee can escort the team around the prison whilst talking to staff and members.

According to the lead on the project, the aim of this process is to ensure what we deliver in prisons is safe, affordable and achievable and as such it may remove the need for competition from other

companies under the banner of Market Testing. To date the Union has not been given such an assurance from the Ministry of Justice on this or what happens if, as a result of the process, a prison is unable to deliver the new specifications or as a result the prison fails. To this end, I have written to the Minister and asked specific questions on the process and outcomes.

The process may be the answer to ensuring all prisons are Safe, Decent and Secure. It may give the Director General of NOMS the armoury to fight for more money to ensure we return to the Gold standard rather than the Bronze standard that people are referring too.

The Union is aware that the Specification team has agreed 6 new specifications following the detailed discussions with staff and they have passed the rigorous tests which are in place, but they have not been agreed by the NEC.

These new specifications have been signed off by the Minister but the new PSO’s have not been finalised or subject to any consultation with the unions. This will probably commence in the near future.

Following the meeting on 4th March more work will be undertaken and I will ensure regular reports are promulgated to the membership and communications improved in this area of work.

If you have any information or concerns in respect of this process please direct them to Glyn Travis who is the secretary to the sub committee at POA Headquarters Cronin House.

Thanking you all for your support and loyalty


Colin Moses
National Chairman