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Pilfering at the Prison Service

Some of the men and women who run our prisons have been spending too much time in the company of undesirable elements. At any rate, they seem to have picked up some nasty habits, according to the contents of a memosent to the entire staff of the Prison Service headquarters in central London.

The memo comes from the HQ librarian Philip Kemp, and explains that as from 4 March he is going to have to lock the staff library outside working hours (9.15am to 4.30pm), and occasionally during lunchtime - "in the unlikely event of only one staff member being available" - on account of "theft of publications and computer equipment".

Sources say that such sorry behaviour is far from unknown to the Prison Service HQ. But it is never reported to the media, for obvious fear of embarrassment. Sure enough, when I called the press office, a copy of Mr Kemp's memo in front of me, a spokesman professed astonishment, and then disappeared and neglected to call me back.

Mr Kemp's memo catalogues an impressive list of thefts: "Last year, the library had to replace a complete set of stolen hotel guides. ... Last month, a high specification computer, purchased to improve the range of services offered by the library, was stolen. ... On Friday 16 February, library staff discovered that a large run of the journal Architectural Review had been removed."

The Architectural Review? Perhaps the next phase of apprenticeship criminality involves studying how to case the joint in preparation for possible break- outs?

Two cheers for the local bobby

I note a wee contradiction in the information sent out by the Home Office on Monday to accompany the latest findings of the British Crime Survey. The good news, according to the summary on the press release, is that 82 per cent of the public feel that their local police do a good job; and, even better, that "satisfaction with the police has risen among those reporting a crime" from 66 per cent in 1992 to 72 per cent now.

The slightly less good news is that a graph towards the end of the report shows that 82 per cent represents a drop of 10 per cent from 1982. Public confidence in the police seems to have been sliding gently downhill ever since ...

Wrong day for a government leek

Allow me to defend the 35-year-old Secretary of State for Wales, William Hague (right). It has appeared to some of those he represents that the Yorkshireman is ignorant as to the date of St David's Day (1 March). In the current edition of House magazine (Parliament's in-house rag), dated 26 February, Hague has written an article that starts: "As we celebrate St David's Day today, the prospects for Wales are brighter than at any time for a generation".

Understandably, the Welsh Office has been receiving complaints. Fortunately the House magazine's editorial staff are gallantly taking the blame.

"There was an error over the publication date," says a spokeswoman. "Please let me reassure everybody that the Secretary of State does know when St David's Day is."

The key to democracy is ... missing

Democracy has gone mad in Harrogate. Last week, the teachers at Harrogate Grammar School organised their own ballot on whether the school should go grant-maintained. They voted overwhelmingly against. The governors decided, however, to hold a repeat ballot among the staff, in order to decide whether the school should hold a ballot of all parents to decide whether to go grand-maintained. This manic decision-making descended into farce yesterday when the key to the ballot box could not be found. The school's caretaker had to be sent for to cut the box open with a saw.

He needn't have bothered. More than 70 out of 125 staff had decided not to take part. A mere 17 voted in favour of balloting parents. Which at least, thankfully, saves the school from having to shell out for a new ballot box.

Eagle Eye

Be seen in the right places - and save ten bob Green Street, the trendy watering hole in London's Mayfair, was the venue for the launch of Single Girl's Diary, the first novel by Kate Morris (above), the Tatler columnist (the book takes the same title as her column). Unsurprisingly, the room was packed with wealthy, willowy young women. Jane Procter, editor of Tatler, neatly summed it up: "Single Girl is all about affluence. Look around you. We have here a room full of Trustafarians [rich trendy young people who have inherited trust funds]. They have come to honour one of their very successful number."

Humph. Trustafarians may be affluent but they are also, in true Nineties style, prudent and thrifty: they know a bargain when they see one. The Heinemann paperback (pounds 9.99 to you and me) was available a price that had the ladies queuing for their copies. The discount? 49p.