12 September 2008
Prison officers have threatened to take strike action after it emerged that a computer disk containing the details of 5,000 justice staff had been lost by government IT contractor EDS. Justice Secretary Jack Straw launched an investigation into the loss, which happened in July 2007, although the prison service was informed only in July this year. Prison Officers Association national chair Colin Moses said: 'We are extremely concerned that not only has this data been lost, but that the prison service appears to have tried to conceal this serious breach in security.'
A consultation has been launched on proposals that local government take responsibility for some prisons. The plans, from the Commission on English Prisons Today — set up by the Howard League for Penal Reform and chaired by Cherie Booth QC — said a local approach to criminal justice should be explored to 'promote confident and safe communities'. Howard League director Frances Cook said if custody formed part of local government budgets, this could allow investment in areas such as health and housing, which provided 'lasting solutions to crime'.
The Local Government Association has called on the Environment Agency to clamp down on recycling firms that refuse to reveal where recyclable material is being sold. Paul Bettison, chair of the LGA environment board, said: 'If a contractor refuses to reveal where materials are being sold it can lead to suspicion and undermine the whole process. It is important that local authorities and local people are confident that their waste is being sold or exported responsibly.' Bettison added that uncertainty could act as a barrier to efforts to increase recycling.
A report has highlighted what needs to be done to get more under-represented groups of women to play an active role in civic life. Only 29.3% of councillors in England are women and less than 20% of MPs are female. There are only two ethnic minority women MPs, said Closing the gap, a report on the findings of 'Women Take Part', a Government Equalities Office and Department for Communities and Local Government project. Women Take Part aimed to identify the main ingredients to supporting women from under-represented groups to become active in public life.
Northern Ireland's Public Accounts Committee has found that sickness levels in the Northern Irish civil service are more than twice those in the private sector. Its report laid the blame on the Department of Finance and Personnel. 'This report is a damning indictment of NICS management,' said Northern Ireland PAC chair Paul Maskey. 'Although there has been some reduction in sickness absence levels in the past four years, they remain unacceptably high. What the committee wants to see is meaningful action and change, rather than words and documents.' The committee found that although civil servants in Northern Ireland did not take sickness absence any more frequently than in Great Britain, the duration was almost twice as long.
A North Wales Police Federation survey has found that many officers are disillusioned because their job is more about issuing penalty tickets than solving crimes. Just over 500 constables, sergeants, inspectors and chief inspectors responded to questionnaires sent out earlier this year. Officers rated their morale as very low in the survey and were also critical of the quality of the service they provided to the public. Richard Eccles, secretary of the North Wales Police Federation, said: 'We want to deal with a member of the public who's a victim of a burglary in a proper, professional and competent manner, and we need to be able to focus on that.'