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£2million investment in Portland jail's future as immigration centre
A TOTAL of £1.8million has been spent stabilising a tunnel at HMP The Verne and already more than £188,000 in contracts has been issued to change the Portland prison’s role to an immigration centre.
The Dorset Echo can reveal that the contracts were all awarded on August 7 this year – three weeks before it was confirmed that the prison will change from an adult male prison to an Immigration Removal Centre.
It comes after the announcement by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on Wednesday that and the prison will provide a place to hold around 600 immigration detainees awaiting removal from the country. Just two months ago, the taxpayer funded the stabilisation of the bridge for the existing access tunnel which suggested the Ministry of Justice Intention to keep the facility.
A prison source said the tunnel was necessary to secure the long term future of the prison.
He said: “Although it is a change for the workers at the prison I think most people are pleased to still have a job but that doesn’t mean the associated agencies and contractors won’t lose out because of the change to an immigration centre.”
The category C prison is part of a 19th century citadel, dug into a hillside and hold 600 adult male inmates – of which 45 per cent are foreign nationals.
The population currently consists of life sentence prisoners and determinate sentenced prisoners – many serving four years or over.
However readers online at dorsetecho.co.uk reacted differently fearing that it will be an economic loss to Portland.
Portland town councillor Tim Munro said: “Clearly there have been job losses, not just prison officers, teachers, medical, secretarial and support services add that to the loss of revenue to the prison suppliers. This is clearly not welcome news.
“Dorset is at the bottom of the funding pile, lowest funded Police service, lowest funded fire service, pupil premium one of the countries lowest, lowest funded county council. We’re clearly not on this government’s Christmas card list.
“Government funded employment has been progressively been removed from Dorset - Winfrith, AUWE, HMS Osprey, Naval Air Station all have been removed.”
The planned re-role comes as part of a wider programme to modernise the prison estate, which will also see HMPs Downview and Warren Hill change function by the start of next year.
TOTAL COSTS in the last 12 months for HMP Verne
July 22 2013: HMP Verne Stabilisation of Embankment and Tunnel - £1,877,976 – finished July 22 2013
May 30 2013: Waste collection services annual contract £31,800
May 16 2012: Replacement of cables to supply citadel switch room at the Verne £55,907
Cost of contracts to re-role HMP Verne to immigration centre awarded in August
Aug 7 2013: Construction work £6,063
Aug 7 2013: Construction consultancy company - £54,897
Aug 7 2013: Architecture firm £93,353
Aug 7 2013: Construction work £31,604
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