Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said he was disappointed to hear that probation officers were intending to strike over the government's plans for privatisation, but insisted that the reforms would go ahead. He said:
It is disappointing Napo have voted to strike - we have well-established contingency arrangements to deal with any potential action.
More than 600,000 offences were committed last year by those who had broken the law before, despite spending £4 billion a year on prisons and probation.
The public deserves better and we are committed to introducing our important reforms, which were widely consulted on.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is intending to allow Serco and G4S to bid for the probation service, despite the government wide-review into their contracts over revelations that both firms had overcharged the government for criminal-tagging contracts.
A package of £450 million-worth of contracts has been offered to private and voluntary sector organisations, covering the supervision of a quarter of a million low and medium-risk offenders each year on a payment-by-results basis.
More than 700 organisations from across the world have expressed interest in the contracts, the MoJ said, including hundreds of British firms.
The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) said 84.4% of its members have voted for strike action, in a dispute with government over plans to transfer most of the service to firms such as G4S and Serco. Ian Lawrence, Napo's general secretary said:
We now have a mandate for industrial action that we shall be pursuing with vigour but as always Napo will be seeking to avoid this if possible by way of further negotiations with ministers.
Napo does not take strike action lightly, but we strongly believe that decimating the award-winning public sector Probation Service and selling it off to the likes of G4S and Serco will result in increased re-offending rates, a lack of continuity in risk management, and will see the privateers making huge profits at the expense of victims, offenders and taxpayers.