Northumberland prison could see 200 jobs axed

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.

Up to 200 jobs are to be lost at a north Northumberland prison, whose privatisation was announced earlier this year.

As reported in the Gazette in August, HMP Northumberland in Acklington will be managed by Sodexo Justice Services from December, having signed a 15-year contract, worth an estimated £250million over its term.

Now, it has been revealed that consultations have begun with the Ministry of Justice and the unions.

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) accused the company of ‘placing private profit before public safety’.

In a statement, the union said: “The POA insists that Sodexo now provides safe systems of work, risk assessments and staff profiles to ensure that HMP Northumberland is safe, secure and decent for staff, prisoners and the public.

“The POA will not tolerate unsafe working practices and unsupervised prisoners.

“The warehousing of prisoners will not provide the promised rehabilitation revolution.

“Safe, secure and decent prisons are non-negotiable.”

Sodexo released a statement, which read: “We are currently in consultation with the Ministry of Justice and the recognised unions regarding employment arrangements at HMP Northumberland.

“We have shared our proposed reduction in staffing numbers. We aim to achieve this reduction by voluntary means if possible.

“Formal consultation with employees will commence after December 1, 2013, when HMP Northumberland employees transfer to Sodexo Justice Services.”

In July, the Gazette reported that the contract to run HMP Northumberland had been awarded, amid a scandal over possible fraud by two of the other bidders.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that the contract to run the prison was won by Sodexo, following revelations that the other preferred bidders, G4S and Serco, were being investigated for possible fraud over the operation of electronic tagging schemes.

At the time, MP Sir Alan Beith said: “I am obviously disappointed that the public-sector bid to run HMP Northumberland was not considered in the final stages, but the company which has won the contract, Sodexo, is not involved in any way with the electronic-tagging issue.

“This has been a very worrying time for prison staff and they now need to be given a clear indication of how their interests will be safeguarded.”

Full story and reaction in Thursday’s Gazette.