Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 8°C

min temp: 4°C

Search

Lowestoft: Revealed - the £10m costs scandal of closing Blundeston Prison

PUBLISHED: 12:19 18 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:19 18 March 2014

Blundeston prison. September 2013. Photo: Mike Page

Blundeston prison. September 2013. Photo: Mike Page

© Copypright Mike Page, All Rights Reserved Before any use is made of this picture, including dispaly, publication, broadcast,

The closure of a Suffolk prison where an estimated £10million had been spent on a refurbishment project has been branded a waste of taxpayers’ money.

HMP Blundeston which is now closed.

Picture: James BassHMP Blundeston which is now closed. Picture: James Bass

In a blistering attack, politician Bob Blizzard claimed the closure of HMP Blundeston had been a “panic measure” to help the Government’s economic plans, and had done nothing to help the prisoners being rehabilitated or punished.

In a report, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) also questioned the Ministry of Justice decision to scrap the jail and said in addition to huge spending in the past three years, there were expensive “hidden costs” associated with the move.

Government said the closure of Blundeston, near Lowestoft, along with three other prisons, would save £30m a year as they were deemed either too expensive to run or needed substantial capital investment.

Mr Blizzard, Labour prospective Parliamentary candidate for Waveney, challenged this because of the refurbishment work already carried out, including:

HMP Blundeston which is now closedHMP Blundeston which is now closed

• an estimated £10m on new heating and roofs in the past three years – £6m on roofing workshops and the central part of the prison, and £4m on heating for the main area;

• a large capital investment in a laundry facility to do all laundry for eastern region prisons;

• £80,000 on new welding equipment for a workshop which was never used;

• and a new computerised key system installed a month before closure.

The IMB also cited the “hidden costs” of staff who had agreed departure packages, payment of all travel costs for three years for staff redeployed elsewhere, equipment thrown away or mothballed, and security for the redundant building, including a new fence around the site.

It is understood the building will eventually be sold and the site redeveloped.

Mr Blizzard said: “The very things the Government was saying that money needed spending on at these prisons had mostly been done at Blundeston – at a cost of more than £10m.

“The IMB report shows this closure is a scandalous waste of public money which had already been spent.

“It is quite clear that the closure decision was nothing to do with sensible prison management or sound offender management, but a panic measure and the Ministry of Justice’s response to Prime Minister David Cameron’s demand for immediate budget cuts as part of his economic plan. It came out of the blue and has been such a shock for our community.”

Mr Blizzard said jobs had been lost in the area both directly at the prison and in the supply chain which worked with the jail.

At the time of the closure in December, Blundeston had capacity for 526 prisoners, including a 60-bed wing for life sentence prisoners, and employed more than 100 prison officers and a further 130 staff.

The IMB said the wisdom of the closure must be called into question. There had previously been a campaign to keep it open.
Press officer Michael Cadman said: “It has been widely stated that the real reason for closure was the long term maintenance costs.

“However, it should be pointed out that in excess of £10m had already been spent in the three years prior to closure on new heating and roofs and also there had been large capital investment in a new laundry in order to do all the laundry for a number of eastern region prisons.

“Although data for the future maintenance costs have been asked for, even at a parliamentary level, the figures have never been produced and until they are, unlikely of course now, doubts must remain over the integrity of the decision to close HMP Blundeston and it has been suggested that the Government were ill advised.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We need a modern, fit for purpose estate, which provides prison accommodation at a much lower cost to the taxpayer, and in the right places, to deliver our ambition of reducing reoffending.

“The decision to close HMP Blundeston was made following a thorough assessment by senior managers in the National Offender Management Service and was based on a range of factors, including the suitability of the accommodation. It was not a reflection on the hard work and commitment of staff working there.

“This report will now be considered fully by Ministers, who will respond in due course.”

0 comments

A vintage cinema bus, jamboree and literary festival are just some of the activities booked for a bumper programme of events coming to the Shotley peninsula this summer.

The niece of a 67-year-old man who died from severe burns after setting himself on fire in Suffolk has described him as a “loving person” who struggled to cope with a change in his benefits.

More CCTV images of potential witnesses to the murder of Dean Stansby are being released by police.

A man has pleaded not guilty after being charged in connection with an alleged stabbing in Ipswich earlier this month.

It’s the project that has limped on much longer than originally planned – but the final piece of work that was originally part of the Travel Ipswich scheme should be completed by mid-May.

Proposals for a 560-plus home development in countryside on the edge of Felixstowe have been delayed by the general election.

As five Suffolk stars were honoured, the Queen’s Lord Lieutenant has called for more nominations to truly reflect the “fantastic” efforts of our county’s volunteers.

Four Good primary schools in Ipswich are eyeing Outstanding Ofsted ratings in the future after converting to academies under a new umbrella organisation.

Ipswich Cornhill, Carr Street and Upper Orwell Street - we launch our exciting interactive pictures as part of our nostalgia series.

A huge crane lifted away a broken section of Ewell Bridge on the A12 at Kelvedon last week.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24