17 February 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The maintenance and upkeep of a men's prison in West Sussex has been the source of "a great deal of concern this year", according to a report by an independent monitoring board.
The maintenance of HMP Ford in Ford, West Sussex, used to be undertaken by the prison service, but is now in the hands of an outside provider, Carillion, notes the report by the Independent Monitoring Board - a group of ordinary citizens who monitor the insides of a prison or immigration facility to "ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained".
The board's report reveals that the year ended 31 October 2015 was a challenging one for HMP Ford and that cuts in government funding and a nationwide shortage of prison personnel, combined with the national tightening of the rules covering Release on Temporary Licence made "life problematic for staff and prison alike".
The board believes that the prison has come through those difficulties satisfactorily, but is concerned about the contracting out of prison maintenance, which has seriously delayed some essential repairs in the prison's infrastructure.
The contract with Carillion started on June 1st 2015, and the board's report reads "although we accept that there will be teething problems, we are perturbed that even the most basic maintenance tasks are proving to be very difficult to perform because of Carillion's control of the budget and its cumbersome administrative processes".
It adds: "Delays seem to be endemic and the bureaucracy very wasteful of time and money. Of particular concern is the remedial work needed in some of the accommodation areas and the on-site dental premises. The board is very concerned and believes this is having an adverse effect on prisoner welfare. We will continue to monitor the situation closely."
The report also states that during the year the works department was also contracted out to Carillion. The board says: "In our view this is not a success, with unacceptable delays in the processing and approval of contracts and a generally poor level of communication with the offenders as to progress." One billet within the prison was without hot water for 6 weeks, states the report.
A Carillion spokesman told FM World: "Carillion assumed responsibility for providing facilities management services at a number of prisons including Ford in the middle of last year.
"We are aware of an isolated issue with the hot water supply at one billet in Ford that we worked with our client to resolve, including alternative arrangements being provided for the people affected. Our people on site have and continue to work hard to provide a first class service."