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Government plans to centralise offender management risks re-offending rates according to a new think tank pamphlet.
The New Local Government Network (NLGN) has said that the Offender Management Bill, which is debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday, “risks being insensitive to local needs” and may exclude the local knowledge of councillors in commissioning probation services.
In a pamphlet published today the think tank argues that local guidance and expertise is vital in reducing rates of reoffending, particularly given that “the vast majority of crime is committed in the offender’s local area”. The think tank points to evidence in Sheffield that 50% of crime committed happens within two miles of the offender’s home.
The Offender Management Bill will introduce greater contestability into the probation service by allowing private and voluntary sectors to run contracts. The reforms will also establish Regional Offender Managers (ROMS) to commission and map offender management.
Whilst the pamphlet, Reducing Reoffending: Creating the Right Framework does not argue against greater contestability, it questions the rationale for moving responsibility from a local to regional level and argues that local government should be given a stronger role in managing offender reduction.
It also develops a framework for ROMS to be integrated within local authority Local Area Agreements and to introduce a duty on new Probation Trusts to co-operate with the local authority, which would help to ensure that offender management was embedded in the strategic planning of all local services.
The pamphlet argues:
“The current proposals draw accountability upwards to national government, through the National and Regional Offender Management Services. No effective argument has been made for this centralisation of responsibility”
“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”.
“Local government should be given a stronger role in reducing re-offending. It offers transparent and accountable leadership. Rather than looking upwards to national government, offender management should be more locally accountable”.