The government has been accused of sneaking out a plan to privatise a key enforcement function of the Ministry of Justice after nearly 150 civilian enforcement officers were today told their posts could be outsourced.
The staff at HM Courts and Tribunals Service, who are subject to the civil service code governing standards of behaviour when collecting court fines, were informed today the collection of court fines could be wholly moved to private companies.
Previous moves to outsource the function were scrapped by government in 2015, but the department today said expanding the use of agencies, who already collect up to a quarter of fines, could save £18m.
A spokeswoman told CSW: “We take the recovery and enforcement of court fines very seriously and it is vital that offenders either pay or are brought back before the court.
“While no decisions have been made, we are in discussion with providers to extend the work of approved enforcement agencies which would save the taxpayer more than £18m over the next five years.”
The HMCTS said that conduct rules for enforcement officers would not change after any switch. External organisations also handle the vast majority of warrants, the department highlighted.
However, the PCS trade union said setting out the proposals during MPs’ holiday meant they could not be properly scrutinised.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The last time ministers tried to do something similar it ended up costing taxpayers £8m before being abandoned, now they’re trying to avoid scrutiny by sneaking it out during the summer holiday.
“This work is highly sensitive and should remain in-house instead of being handed to private bailiffs whose motive is profit.”