Private jail costs ' pounds 1m a year extra'

BRITAIN'S first private prison is costing taxpayers almost a million pounds a year more than if it was state-run, MPs were told yesterday.

The Wolds, a purpose-built prison for 320 adult remand prisoners in Humberside, is expected to cost the Prison Service pounds 25.18m to run over five years. Group 4 won the tender to run it from 1992 at a cost of pounds 21.5m.

The director-general of the Prison Service, Derek Lewis, told the Commons Public Accounts Committee that in 1993-94, payments made to Group 4 for running the Wolds were pounds 5.98m.

George Mudie, Labour MP for Leeds East and a member of the committee, said afterwards: 'It's gone up from pounds 21.5m over five years to more than pounds 28m.

'They were not the lowest tender (the lowest was pounds 19.5m) . . .

They have deliberately, either through incompetence or other reasons, hidden other costs so that comparisons look good.'

A report in March by the Comptroller and Auditor General found the average operating cost per prisoner at Wolds was expected to be less than pounds 350 a week, compared with the pounds 494 a week average for the Prison Service.

Mr Lewis told the committee that in addition to the pounds 21.5m contract, operating costs had to be added, including maintenance of pounds 500,000 a year.

A Treasury spokesman said it was still too early to quantify the difference in value for money between the Wolds and other prisons.

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