Prison probe is not knee-jerk

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.

While I read with disgust the comments made by Coun Gordon Castle, Conservative member of Northumberland County Council, about HMP Northumberland prison staff, I really must point out some facts that he seems to be totally ignoring but is fully aware of.

Coun Castle calls it a stunt in relation to a ‘disturbance’ being a knee-jerk reaction by me and my team but actually he knows fine well this had been launched well before the ‘disturbance’ took place.

He also knows we were looking at the privatisation of several services and the impact on residents and access to services.

This included the prison, Royal Mail and the Probation Service. He also knows that his members tried to block that from taking place.

Whether this was because of concern of what would be unearthed remains to be seen.

So let’s not talk utter tosh, Coun Castle, and try to make people believe this was a response solely because of the ‘disturbance’ that he feels was so trivial.

We also need to give the company (Sudexo) the opportunity to reassure the community and staff of plans moving forward, convince us that staff are safe, communities are safe, links with communities will be strengthened. This should be seen as an opportunity and I really can’t understand why the Conservatives want this process stopped and silenced.

The county council has a duty to support some of the 200+ staff who were made unemployed to seek new work and I would hope even Conservative councillors would see that as a function of the council.

We need to look at the effects on the local economy – whether this privatisation and reduction of staff will support or damage the Northumberland economy – so that when further plans come forward from Government we are best placed to support those affected. So rather than the Conservatives continuing to be against this really rather simple piece of scrutiny work, which gives the council valuable information in order to support people, give the companies involved the opportunity to speak to people and enable the council to assist Northumberland residents now and in the future, they should be giving their support.