Permanent Secretary at @MoJGovUK Sir Richard Heaton says his 5-year term ends in August but refuses to say if he'll stay on or not.
Asked about prison building plans, Heaton says 4 planned prisons at Full Sutton site, one in north-west England and two in south-east, will open in 2026. They'll be publicly financed & provide about 6,500 of the promised 10,000 extra places, Public Accounts Cttee hears.
Heaton & MoJ unofficials unable to provide Committee with a breakdown of BME prisoner/staff deaths due to Covid-19.
Sir Richard Heaton being very frank, slightly un-civil servant like. He says there was under-investment in prison maintenance from 2010-17. It was in the "low tens of millions" - it should have been over 100 million - and we're "paying the consequences".
Heaton says population crisis "came home" when they realised they were losing 500 places each year because of poor upkeep. Now he says there's a consensus across Govt about the need to invest in capital maintenance and build extra places
Top civil servant at @MoJGovUK pulling no punches here. Sir Richard is speaking with the type of candour you normally get from people who are leaving or have left a job. He says the root of the MoJ's financial problems was the 2015 spending settlement...
It was "insecure". Resource spending was "vastly under-cooked". Income expectations & legal aid savings "unrealistic". Treasury had to keep bailing MoJ out, he said. (The justice secretaries in 2015 were Chris Grayling, then Michael Gove).
Heaton continues: the prisons facilities management contract was "under-resourced" (that was set by Chris Grayling). Targets for probation reform, TR, were "over-ambitious and unrealistic" (that was Mr Grayling also)...
Heaton says the decision to secure capital funding for 10,000 prison places in 2015/16 - the "crown jewels" - was the "big prize" which meant that other things were sacrificed. He says officials and politicians were to blame - "group-think" he suggests.
Everything between 2013 and 2015 was "driven by cost savings and price", says Sir Richard Heaton, as he explains the failure of prison facilities management contracting process. There was a mistaken assumption that you could make 20% savings, he says, from outsourcing...
Fix the problem first, he says, before you outsource it. Across govt "lots of bad mistakes" were made with contracts and outsourcing. This is Sir Richard Heaton, by the way, senior civil servant, not an Opposition MP.
Heaton is crystal clear that this prison building programme (Wellingborough, Glen Parva, Full Sutton & 3 others) is not a "new for old". We "mustn't fall into the trap of closing prisons" because of projected jail population increase. Victorian prisons will keep going, he says.
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