Probation staff trying to block Chris Grayling’s plans to privatise 70 per cent of the probation service finished a 24-hour strike at noon today.

Members of the Surrey and Sussex branch of Napo, the trade union for probation staff, participated in the nationwide strike action.

They believe plans to hand contracts to private security firms such as G4S and Serco, by October 2014, on a payment-by-results basis, could lead to an increase in crime.

But Justice Secretary Mr Grayling is adamant that it will reduce reoffending.

Charlotte Amor, a probation services officer at Redhill, said they picketed near their office as well as walking into the town and joining a rally in Brighton.

Miss Amor said: "It was quite concerning that quite a few members of the public were unaware of the transforming rehabilitation bill and the impact it will have on offenders and the public.

"A lot of the offenders came out in support and were talking about how much help we had given them."

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In an email she said: "This isn’t a strike about pensions, or terms and conditions.

"This is about protesting against the Government’s reckless plans to dismantle a successful public service, and replace it with an untried, untested, ideologically-driven alternative, which will drive down the quality of service in the name of profit for shareholders.

"Under the Government’s plans, up to 70 per cent of probation work will be given to private companies, which will then be put up for auction to the lowest bidder.

"Only the large private sector companies, like G4S and Serco have the financial muscle to compete for the contracts."