The work of the Office for Criminal Justice Reform - Justice Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)


3 MARCH 2009

  Q20  Mr Tyrie: Fine. Broadly speaking, by how much has your budget risen since you were created, in nominal terms?

  Jonathan Slater: OCJR itself only came into effect in 2004. Local Criminal Justice Boards came into place in 2003

  Q21  Mr Tyrie: This is why I asked for the figure for 2003/2004, because I think that would be the right starting point.

  Jonathan Slater: Yes. I am sorry; my point is that OCJR did not exist then, so the need for an agency to bring together the different parts of the criminal justice system in the way that I have been seeking to describe came into effect then.

  Q22  Mr Tyrie: I am just at the early stages of trying to establish what the rise in your budget has been on a fair and comparable basis. Can you give me that?

  Jonathan Slater: I will come back to you in writing with more detail if I can, but my basic point is that in 2003/2004 there was not an Office for Criminal Justice Reform; it did not have a budget; it was set up from scratch in 2004.

  Q23  Mr Tyrie: If I may say so, I am a little surprised that you do not already know, broadly, what these numbers are. Could you tell me roughly what front line services the budget that you do have, which we are now agreed is £167 million, covers—a rough idea of each item?

  Jonathan Slater: The largest sum that we spend from within that budget is a £30 million annual grant to Victim Support, which they use to deliver front line services to about one and a half million individual victims a year. There are smaller sums, a further 2.5 million, to other victims' groups for services to victims from within that figure too. The next largest sum of money is on improving the quality of IT across the piece, and everything that we do is designed to feed into helping front line organisations to do their jobs more effectively. Most of our money, unlike the funding to Victim Support, is not designed to be delivery of services direct by ourselves but to support front line agencies to do that better themselves. In addition to Victim Support, we fund a witness intermediary service, for example, much smaller scale funding, by which particularly vulnerable witnesses get a direct service from intermediaries, but most of our money, as I say, is spent on providing support to agencies to deliver front line services themselves in a more joined up way.

  Q24  Mr Tyrie: We have only got as far as £30 or £40 odd million out of the £167.

  Jonathan Slater: Yes, I am more than happy to talk you through the rest of the budget; I was just saying that most of it is not spent on direct services.

  Q25  Mr Tyrie: I just wanted to get a rough feel. Obviously I recognise that you will not have exact figures in your mind of where the £167 million is spent, but the four or five main headings?

  Jonathan Slater: Absolutely. I will talk you through the rest of the budget then. About £20 million of the remainder is spent on improving IT services across the system, about 11 million a year is spent on delivery of new systems that we have put into place that are already now operating, like secure emails between agencies; there is about 10 million funding of the 42 Local Criminal Justice Boards at 150,000 each to enable them to do their work together well; there is about £7.5 million of compensation in respect of miscarriages of justice, which is a discrete activity unlike the rest of our work that OCJR does.

  Q26  Chairman: You actually pay the compensation when the compensation is agreed. It comes out of your budget.

  Jonathan Slater: It just so happens that it comes out of our budget. That is right, yes.

  Q27  Mr Tyrie: So far we are up to £80,000, roughly speaking, so we have got £80 million to find.

  Jonathan Slater: I mentioned the 15 million depreciation, on depreciating the value of the assets that we have invested over the last five years. I started with our resource expenditure. There is about £30 million worth of capital to support the investment in new IT systems.

  Q28  Mr Tyrie: Independently of the £20 million that you mentioned earlier for IT?

  Jonathan Slater: I was distinguishing, perhaps unhelpfully—apologies if it was unhelpful—between resource and capital costs. It is really needed to control both separately, so those are mutually exclusive figures certainly. We have a pay budget of about £15 million: we currently employ about 260 staff in a variety of capacities, which I could talk you through as you wish.

  Q29  Mr Tyrie: We are getting a bit closer to the number. How do you calculate the division of funding between the local boards? That is the 10 million, I suppose, that you have just mentioned to me.

  Jonathan Slater: About 70% of it is spent on a standard grant to each of the LCJBs for a core support team, about four staff, who work with the individual members of the Board to support them in the delivery of their task, remembering that these board members have got full-time jobs—chief constables, probation officers, and so on—so a team of four or five that work to them providing their secretariat, their plans, and the rest of it. We have invested heavily over the last few years in improved performance management systems for them so that they can see very quickly, at the touch of a button, levels of crime, offences brought to justice, levels of satisfaction in their area and how it compares with others—so the bulk of the difference between seven and ten million is spent on those services for them—and then, finally, we have been investing heavily in the last year in improving the capability, the capacity of each Local Criminal Justice Board to take on more responsibility.

  Q30  Mr Tyrie: How do you decide how much each gets?

  Jonathan Slater: The bulk of their funding is common, whatever the size. London gets it more than others because it is so large, but the bulk of the funding is common to whichever LCJB because the task is the same no matter what.

  Q31  Mr Tyrie: How much thought are you giving to the fact that the Ministry of Justice, who funds you, are going to have to find huge efficiency savings in order to make ends meet in the forthcoming financial years, in fact two years?

  Jonathan Slater: Plenty of thought, in two ways. Firstly, of course, like any other part of the system, we need to demonstrate that we can operate as efficiently as possible. In fact, you might say the responsibility on the headquarters to demonstrate efficiency should be greater in order to protect funding to the front line, so our budget for next year has been set at flat cash—so no allowance for inflation—minus four million.

  Q32  Mr Tyrie: You are offering cuts?

  Jonathan Slater: We are offering, yes, to do things for less money next year than this year. That is one impact. The other impact is that it makes our work all the more important—because our job is, as I said earlier, to improve efficiency as well as effectiveness—so we are looking to divert the maximum funds available to support improvements in the efficiency of the Ministry of Justice and other parts of the system.

  Q33  Mr Tyrie: In other words, you are confident that you can carry on delivering the same service for less money at this time of financial stringency?

  Jonathan Slater: What we are doing, in the light of the financial circumstances, is prioritising as carefully as we possibly can, and so where there times of plenty we would be investing more.

  Q34  Mr Tyrie: Are you losing functions?

  Jonathan Slater: No.

  Mr Tyrie: Thank you, Chairman.

  Q35  Alun Michael: You referred earlier to alignment between different parts of the criminal justice system and you have got the cross-CJS alignment project. What impact do you think that is going to have on the Criminal Justice Service agencies in terms of their capacity to cope with increasing demand, particularly in relation to courts, prisons and probation?

  Jonathan Slater: This is a piece of work we have kicked off recently, precisely to make sure that all appropriate steps have been taken, such that when some new initiative is being envisaged or when there are some consequences arising for the system from some external source, say the economy, that careful thought is given to ensuring that there is an effective alignment supply and demand across the whole of the system. There are many competing pressures on it. One of our roles in the middle of the system is to make sure that when something is being planned the potential knock-on impacts on other bits of the system are given full weight and consideration to ensure it can be implemented effectively.

  Q36  Alun Michael: That is in response to a change rather than pressure of demand, is it not, if there is a new idea that has to be aligned. What about demand, which is another external factor, which is what I actually asked about?

  Jonathan Slater: Yes. What I was hoping to convey was that we are interested in alignment of supply and demand, either in circumstances where the Government itself is considering an initiative or where, through some external reason, there is an increase in demand. Absolutely.

  Q37  Alun Michael: Can you give us an idea about what actual movement of resources is likely to take place, say, during the next 12 months?

  Jonathan Slater: We are at an early stage really in the work at the moment in which we are wanting to make sure that proper planning takes place, that information is shared between the agencies as well as possible, that everybody is speaking with the same sort of definitions, the same sorts of assumptions, that this is done as openly as possible, so that when prioritisation takes place, as inevitably happens where there is an initiative in respect of knife crime, or whatever it is, that people are planning accordingly. I am not expecting this to lead to significant transfers of resource between one department and another.

  Q38  Alun Michael: Can we put it to practicalities then for a moment? We know that there is a lot of pressure, despite the additional resources that the Lord Chancellor told us about when he last gave evidence, for community sentences, and yet we also know that there is a problem with the confidence of the judges and their knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of community sentencing. So we know that there is an area of difficulty there in terms of aligning the Government's priorities with what actually happens within the criminal justice system. What are you doing about that?

  Jonathan Slater: As you say, in response to concerns being expressed about a year or so ago about the resources available to magistrates for sufficient capacity of community orders, discussions took place within the department that had the responsibility for funding probation—the Ministry of Justice—to make sure that there was sufficient provision and additional provision was made.

  Q39  Alun Michael: But that is not a question of alignment, that is simply a question of an additional pot of money?

  Jonathan Slater: That is right.

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