Reading the various items of coverage of the worrying prison riot at HMP Northumberland, I couldn’t help but wonder just what points Conservative Gordon Castle and Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith and his ‘shadow’ were trying to make.
The decision to ‘privatise’ the prison was taken by the government made up of Conservative-led government supported in every finance vote by Sir Alan and his Lib Dem pals.
Setting aside how the decision was announced by Sodexo with hundreds of job losses, it seems both Conservatives and Lib Dems in north Northumberland have short memories.
Sir Alan voted for each and every finance bill put forward by his government which has meant that Berwick continues to play second class fiddle to the rest of the region.
For the Conservatives and Libs to now whinge from the side lines about a decision which was straight from this ‘minority’ governments ‘playbook’, it does take an impressive amount of political contortion.
I’m used to the Liberal Democrats saying one thing and doing another but now Northumberland’s Conservatives seem to have got in on the act.
So a message to the good people of north Northumberland.
The decision to ‘privatise’ HMP Northumberland was a significant factor in the unrest.
Staffing levels have been undermined by the need for Sodexo to make a profit from their contract.
I’m not happy that the company is making these decisions and I’m not happy that the public purse will ultimately have to pick up the slack.
Nor will I accept the Northumberland Conservatives’ view that this has nothing to do with the council, we should look at our residents’ safety who live near, the staff safety (who are often residents) and the safety of the council staff who work in there so don’t tell me it’s nothing to do with the council it’s everything to do with the council.
As the county councillor for the area and as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for next years’ General Election, I’m seeking to launch a scrutiny inquiry in the county council into the decision to privatise and the its impact on the local community, county council staff who work in there in cooperating any other issues that arise when talking to the various organisations involved.
I am led to believe that other prisons run by Sodexo are purpose built which are created to effectively run them based on the slim staffing model they use, here at Acklington we don’t have that, this is a historic prison.
While we are told the privatisation was done to save money I wonder how much it cost our local emergency services to attend the site on the night the disturbance took place?
It seems that both coalition parties are now locked into their ‘own prison’, each trying to blame each other for a decision they both supported.
Coun Scott Dickinson,
Member for Druridge Bay,
Labour Parliamentary Candidate
Berwick Upon Tweed Constituency