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Jobs to go as probation teams merge

PUBLISHED: 11:07 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 08:34 01 August 2010

PROBATION bosses last night pledged to continue protecting the public from the most dangerous criminals despite admitting a merger of teams in Norfolk and Suffolk would result in job losses.

PROBATION bosses last night pledged to continue protecting the public from the most dangerous criminals despite admitting a merger of teams in Norfolk and Suffolk would result in job losses.

The number of roles likely to be affected by the move has not been confirmed but Norfolk's chief officer Martin Graham said “frontline jobs will be protected as much as possible”. He added he was confident there would be no compulsory redundancies in the county.

Officially the reason for the merger is that it will ease the transition to trust status; something required by government. However, Mr Graham said it would also cut costs by reducing duplication and bureaucracy.

Mr Graham said: “We are not in a position to say which specific roles will be under threat. However, it is common sense that under a merger there will no longer be a need for two managers in backroom departments, for example.

“Numerically there may be some reduction in frontline roles but the purpose of this is to protect such roles and, by the end of this process, we expect frontline workers to actually represent a higher proportion of our workforce.

“The nature of our work means that we must constantly prioritise the highest risk cases and that will not change. Crime is unpredictable and there will be cases where low risk offenders suddenly become high risk. But we have processes in place to attempt to manage that and those will continue.”

Union representatives have been aware of the proposed merger since last year but it has only now been formally given the go ahead.

Andy Wales, chairman of the East Anglian branch of the National Association of Probation Officers, said it was a “sign of the times” and represented trends from across the country.

However, he added that workers would be seeking reassurances not only about their own jobs but also about public protection.

Both Norfolk and Suffolk probation areas have experienced budget cuts in recent years. In Norfolk last year's budget of £11.5m will be cut to £9.7m by 2010/11.

Mr Graham said: “I am pleased that our application to become a joint trust has been successful. Although we have already undertaken preliminary work to merge, we can now get going in earnest.

“I would like to reassure the public that we will continue to provide excellent probation services to the offenders, courts, communities, prisons and victims of Norfolk and Suffolk

“By joining forces we can take what is best from both organisations and apply it in both counties. In the meantime we will continue to work hard to protect the public and reduce re-offending.”

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