Closure of Dorchester Prison is wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money

Dorset Echo: CLOSURE: Dorchester Prison CLOSURE: Dorchester Prison

THOUSANDS of pounds of taxpayers’ money is still being wasted following the closure of HMP Dorchester, it is claimed.

A prison source has hit out against the deployment of staff from the North Square jail to other prisons across the country, racking up huge hotel, living and travel costs.

The Echo has been told by the prison service that they are making the ‘best possible use’ of Dorchester staff while The Verne on Portland is converted to an immigration removal centre.

But the prison source revealed that deployed staff are being used to fill staff shortages created by prisons which offered their own staff voluntary redundancy, at further cost to the taxpayer.

A spokesman for the prison service said: “The savings we are making far outweigh the small, temporary redeployment costs.”

The prison source told the Echo: “The rest of the Dorchester staff are being deployed all over the country filling gaps in other prisons such as Leicester where those prisons’ own staff were cut through early redundancy.

“This of course is at great expense to the taxpayer as additional funds have to be used to pay for travelling and hotel fees.”

It comes after the Echo revealed in December that thousands of pounds’ worth of equipment and furniture was destroyed at Dorchester Prison ahead of its closure.

The prison source added: “Former Dorchester staff have no option but to cover these duties.

“Families have had huge issues with child care, but have been told that they are mobile grades and must go wherever as instructed.”

Dorchester was one of four prisons closed to save money.

At least 157 jobs went at Dorchester, but staff were offered redeployment – many going to The Verne on Portland – or taking voluntary redundancy.

The Echo revealed in September that more than £7.3m has been wasted on refurbishing the prison in the last three years.

It includes a £1.3m medical suite as well as a new roof, windows and visitor centre.

Mike Sear, Dorchester chairman of the Prison Officers' Association (POA), said: “Staff from Dorchester who were relocated at The Verne have been deployed on what we call ‘detached duty’ which is not unusual for the prison service.

“All prison officers are mobile and can be required anywhere in the country and have been used for cover for staff shortages in other parts of the prison service.

“For the Dorchester staff it is to make use of them while they are not at work at The Verne.”

He told the Echo, as far as he knew, staff from Dorchester had been sent as far north as Nottingham.

WEST Dorset MP Oliver Letwin said: “If the prison officer who is raising the issue could let me know exactly what has come to light, with dates and locations specified, I shall certainly take this up with the Ministry of Justice."

A SPOKESMAN for the prison service said these decisions will help to save the taxpayer more than £500m by 2015.

She said: “We are doing everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies following the closure of HMP Dorchester.

“This includes offering alternative roles in the prison estate or a chance to leave on voluntary terms.

“Those staff who had been redeployed to HMP The Verne have been temporarily moved to other establishments.

“These decisions are part of our plan to reduce the cost of prison to taxpayers by replacing older prisons – like HMP Dorchester – with newer, more efficient accommodation at a much lower cost. This will save hard working taxpayers over £500m by 2015.”

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