Closing bail hostels 'will cost taxpayer pounds 4.5m a year'

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The Independent Online
GOVERNMENT plans to close up to 30 bail hostels - 11 immediately - and cancel plans to provide more places will cost the taxpayer nearly pounds 4.5m a year, probation officers warned today, writes Heather Mills.

Many people who would have entered pounds 150-a-week hostels will instead end up on remand in prison, which can cost up to pounds 566 a week.

Now Labour is seeking to amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill to ensure greater use of bail, and is tabling more than 140 parliamentary questions on hostel provision and the effect of, and reasons for, closure.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has justified the cuts because of a drop last year in the numbers of people being sent to bail hostels, which cost about pounds 200,000 a year to run. But a survey by the National Association of Probation Officers has shown a steady increase in bail hostel use since last summer.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of National Association of Probation Officers, said less use of bail hostels coincided with the marked drop last year in cases coming to court. He said: 'The decision to close bail hostels has nothing to do with occupancy and economics. It is all to do with back to basics and Mr Howard's 'prison works' philosophy.'

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