THE future of the Probation Service might not be as bleak as some say, North Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner believes.

The privatisation of probation work with offenders is set to begin next month with private companies to be made responsible for overseeing all but the most difficult to handle offenders during sentence.

Speaking at the Safer York Partnership Crime Summit in April, Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick said the changes "will either work very well or very badly".

This week, Julia Mulligan said "the status quo was simply not satisfactory", as almost 25 per cent of offenders in England and Wales went on to re-offend within a year of release, and she believed the new system would be an improvement on the current one.

She said: "One of the important features of the new system is that offenders released from jail for sentences of under 12 months will now be supervised, whereas before they were not. In addition, Police and Crime Commissioners and local police forces are being offered significant input into the new system and helping ensure local needs are met.

This week, Margaret Hodge, from the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said the changes "carry significant risks", "has not been fully piloted", and no contingency plans had been set out in case a private firm fails or pulls out of a contract.

She said: "The scale, complexity and pace of the changes are very challenging and the MoJ’s extremely poor track record of contracting out gives rise to particular concern."

Mrs Mulligan said she did not recognise the picture painted by those opposed to the plan, and had met with the Ministry of Justice and the new head of local probation.

She said: "I am confident that whilst there will undoubtedly be issues, our area is not experiencing problems on the scale described.

"What's more, there is a real opportunity for PCCs to make sure that local services are tailored to local needs.”