New bid to cut re-offending in Hartlepool while concerns raised over privatisation of probation

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

CONCERNS have again been raised around Government plans to privatise the probation service by councillors investigating how to cut re-offending rates in Hartlepool.

The town, whose current re-offending rate stands at 35.6 per cent, has the second highest rate in the country and Hartlepool Borough Council is carrying out a scrutiny investigation to see what can be done to cut the figure, which has come down slightly over the past year.

But at a meeting of the audit and governance committee, members were concerned what impact the probation privatisation plans and payment by results would have.

In the 12-months up to last September, of the 1,720 offenders cautioned, convicted or released in the previous year, 612 re-offended committing a total of 2,029 offences.

Representatives of National Offender Management Service North East, Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust, Chief Inspector Lynn Beeston, of Cleveland Police and Mark Smith, head of integrated youth support services at the council spoke at the meeting.

Meanwhile, Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who raised concerns about the introduction of payment by results, submitted a written response.

Mr Wright said: “My impression is that this will create an incentive for agencies to focus their attention primarily on those offenders easiest to rehabilitate and neglect the more difficult cases.”

Labour councillor Peter Jackson said: “Privatising the probation service I don’t believe is the right way forward.”

Independent councillor Keith Fisher said: “To go to payment by results is very dangerous.”

Chf Insp Beeston added: “Hartlepool still has one of the worst re-offending rates in the country, although it has improved.”