The Government's U-turn on sentencing reforms means the number of criminals in prison is likely to remain near record levels for the next six years, Whitehall's spending watchdog has warned.
Ditching plans to halve sentences for offenders who submit early guilty pleas will deny the taxpayer £130m of potential savings and will result in 4,000 more people in prison than expected in 2015, the National Audit Office said.
The move leaves the National Offender Management Service "scrambling to find savings elsewhere", Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Commons Committee of Public Accounts, said. Some 86,000 people were in prison in England and Wales in June, compared with the all-time high of 88,179 in December last year.
The Government's reforms were designed to give the Ministry of Justice greater influence over what it described as "the unsustainable rise in the prison population".