Northumbria’s probation budget will increase by more than 2 per cent. in 2008-09. The regional offender manager and probation staff are examining the service levels based on that increase.
Is the Minister aware that the probation service has said that it expects a 5.31 per cent. deficit by March 2011? That could impact on the service offered to offenders, and lead to the loss of 24 posts. It could mean that 24 trainee probation officers are not put in post, which would be a waste of £800,000 of public money. There are also threats to employees’ terms and conditions. Is that what the Minister meant when he met me last year to say that things were going to get better?
I say to my hon. Friend—I hope that he will accept this—that this year Northumbria’s budget will increase from more than £25.484 million to more than £25.995 million, which is an increase of more than 2 per cent. Northumbria has been able to recruit 24 trainee probation officers. The national staffing levels in the probation service have risen by more than 49 per cent. from more than 13,000 to more than 20,000 in the past 10 years of Labour Government. The number of staff in post in Northumbria stands at 644, and the regional offender manager and the probation service will try to live within the 2 per cent. increase for next year. I met my hon. Friend in Northumbria during the summer, and I am happy to meet him again to discuss the issues should he so wish.