HMP Wellingborough Closure – Public Betrayed
The announcement by the Justice Secretary in Parliament on the last day of the ‘Westminster Term’ by the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke that HMP Wellingborough is to close by the end of the year was wrong on many counts, but most of all is symptomatic of the way the modern Conservative party both nationally and locally operate.
The lack of consultation with the people who will be most affected those who work in HMP Wellingborough is nothing short of disgraceful and in my view to announce it in the Westminster Chamber at a time which doesn’t allow for the decision to be challenged smacks of incompetence, cowardness or both.
The facts are that the staff in Wellingborough and not only the 240 prison staff but the other 360 staff who provide healthcare, education, probation, maintenance etc. worked together with the management of the prison to reduce its operational costs from £12.2m to £10m during a period when it along with other prisons was being ‘market tested’.
The professionalism and commitment of the staff saw Wellingborough removed from the ‘market testing’ process, which incidentally saw HMP Birmingham privatised, because to put it bluntly the private sector wouldn’t have been able to make a profit from taking it over.
Staff was led to believe that the success in reducing costs secured their future as a public sector prison so the latest announcement has come as a major shock to everyone who quite rightly feel betrayed.
It would be easy to only talk about the betrayal of the prison staff but there is also a question of the betrayal and contempt that the Government have shown for the electorate in Wellingborough by not even having the courtesy to inform Peter Bone MP the towns Member of Parliament that the decision had been taken and an announcement was going to be made.
If the coalition Government is prepared to dismiss, disregard and treat one of their own MP’s with such disdain why would anyone vote to support them in the future, and especially those in the Wellingborough area?
The decision also demonstrates the utter shambles and lack of foresight of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition Government.
In deciding to close HMP Wellingborough for no other reason than to save £10m the Government has sent a very clear and unambiguous message out to the rest of the Prison Estate that there is no point in management and unions working to deliver an efficient cost-effective service because it will have absolutely no bearing or influence on whether they are privatised or closed.
What the Ministry of Justice should have done is to ask why other prisons are more expensive to operate than Wellingborough and use the mature and professional way the staff accepted the need to change as a template for the rest of the service.
What of course is most annoying and I declare an interest in having worked with the staff in Wellingborough for over eight years, is that highly professional and committed staff will now face the uncertainty of unemployment because of political dogma and is yet another example of the Governments lack of commitments to law and order.
They should be ashamed of themselves,
but sadly we all know they won’t be.