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‘Free-market fundamentalists’ are putting communities at risk by privatising probation service, says Burgon

RICHARD BURGON accused Tory “free-market fundamentalists” today of risking the safety of working-class communities by continuing to privatise parts of the probation service.

Speaking in the Commons, the shadow justice secretary condemned the government for continuing to outsource services under new plans “despite acknowledging that privatisation has failed.”

“Is that because they are ideologically wedded to the free market, or is it because the Tory Party is in the pockets of the billionaires and the private corporations,” he inquired.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “I make no apology for wanting to harness the ability of small organisations and charities who specialise in rehabilitation, working together with our National Probation Service. We are not ideological: the honourable gentleman is.”

But Mr Burgon told him to cut the “waffle” and state whether “any corporate giant involved in the probation privatisation scandal” would be excluded from the new contracts.

Mr Buckland said: “We will look at all providers and judge them on their past record, but we want to make sure that we obtain maximum value for money.”

Probation workers’ union Napo national official Tania Bassett told the Star that 90 per cent of probation was being returned to the public sector.

She said that the remaining services still privatised were interventions, community service and offender behaviour programmes such as those for domestic violence and drink-driving.

But Ms Bassett said: “We want to see 100 per cent reunification of probation. It is absolutely crucial that these areas are part of our everyday probation work.”

In 2014, Serco was stripped of a London contract to oversee community service work as it had been an “unmitigated disaster,” she said.

Ms Bassett added that new contracts would result in a “replay” of that, but on a bigger scale.

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