Wellingborough Prison to close by end of year

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Media captionMP Peter Bone (Con) said the prison was being closed at the wrong time

Wellingborough Prison is to close by the end of the year with the loss of almost 600 prison places, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has announced.

He said shutting the "outdated" Category C jail would save £10m a year.

It is thought staff at the Northamptonshire prison will move to other jails and compulsory redundancies are not expected.

Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, described the decision as "disgraceful".

The Prison Service said the closure meant costs of up to £50m which would have been necessary to maintain the longer-term viability of the jail would be avoided.

'Modern custodial estate'

The prison population in England and Wales was 86,652 on Friday, with enough capacity for a further 3,500 inmates, the service said.

Mr Clarke said: "The public has the right to expect continuing improvement in the quality and efficiency of public services, without compromising public safety.

"Closing outdated and expensive prisons is an important step in our strategy to deliver a fit-for-purpose, modern custodial estate that can provide high quality, cost-effective and secure regimes that protect the public and reform prisoners.

"Closing this one prison alone will save millions of pounds for the taxpayer."

Mr Bone said of the decision: "It sounds disgraceful."

He added: "This is one of the most efficient prisons we've got now.

"It's doing wonders with stopping reoffending and doing all the things the government wants to do.

"I'm amazed nobody's had the decency from the Justice Department to talk to me about this.

"It is potentially a very big blow to the town [of Wellingborough] itself."

His application for an emergency Commons debate was turned down on Tuesday afternoon.

New prisons

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Today's announcement of the closure of Wellingborough Prison signals a slowing down in the inexorable growth of the prison population over the past two decades.

"Before we sink even more taxpayers' money into large private jails, it's time to invest in effective measures to cut crime that give a better return for the public purse."

The Prison Service said jails were only closed when capacity allowed.

"We will always ensure that there are sufficient places for those offenders sentenced to custody by the courts, including a margin to manage fluctuations in the prison population," the service said.

Two new prisons - the G4S-run Oakwood jail near Wolverhampton and the Serco-run Thameside prison in south-east London - opened earlier this year, creating about 2,500 places.

HMP Wellingborough opened as a borstal in 1963 and held young offenders until 1990 when it became a training prison for Category C adult men.

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