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Sheppey Cluster's maintenance jobs at Island's three prisons in Eastchurch put out to tender

By Lewis Dyson

Some of the jobs at the Sheppey prison cluster could be privatised later this year.

Contracts to provide so-called “facilities management” at HMPs Elmley, Swaleside and Standford Hill in Eastchurch have been put out to tender for October.

The publicly funded teams, which are also known as works departments, are responsible for repairing the physical structures, such as broken windows, and includes jobs such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

The inside of a cell at HMP Swaleside in Eastchurch
The inside of a cell at HMP Swaleside in Eastchurch

The move has been described as a money saving measure by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) but a representative of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has called it “privatisation through the back door” and warned dozens could be made redundant on the Island.

Mike Rolfe, POA rep for London and Kent, said it could be the start of a process which sees other public sector roles in the service, such as prison officers and admin staff, replaced by private companies.

He said: “It’s almost a scenario where there will be resistance to a wholesale privatisation so what the government is doing is doing it bit by bit.”

David Todd, POA rep for Swaleside, said about 50 jobs would be affected. Their jobs would be safe under transfer of undertakings protection of employment regulations but only for 18 months after which employers could look at hiring new staff.

He said: “You won’t get the same level of service, it won’t be as cost effective and from the tax payer’s point of view it will actually just end up costing them more.”

A MoJ spokesman said: “The contract to provide facilities management in public sector prisons was put out to fair and open competition earlier this year.

“We are currently considering bids and will always seek the best value for taxpayers.”

Contracts have been put out for all public sector prisons, apart from Isis and Brixton in London. The MoJ says only those which offer better value for money will be awarded.

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