Government spends £450,000 on empty would-be prison at Haslar

NEARLY £500,000 has been '˜wasted' maintaining a defunct detention centre, The News can reveal.

Saturday, 24th December 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:20 pm
Haslar Immigration Removal Centre in Gosport

Haslar Immigration Removal Centre was shut in June last year and was earmarked for conversion into a prison.

But last month ministers axed the plan, instead deciding to sell off the site at Dolphin Way, Gosport.

Now the Ministry of Justice has said it spent £450,000 between June 2015 and October on maintenance and staffing.

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Since it closed, the centre has only been used for its office space, despite being kitted out with 40 new beds in 2014.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Taxpayers will be shocked that so much of their money is being wasted maintaining a facility that is no longer to be used.

‘Plans do change and sometimes that can save money in the long run but it is vitally important that decisions are made as early as possible to avoid situations like this.’

He added: ‘Authorities need to be a lot smarter about their spending decisions.’

In reply to a Freedom of Information request from The News, the Ministry of Justice said 17 prison service and six Carillion staff were based there.

They have roles including security, gate duties, cleaning, grounds maintenance and preventative maintenance.

The reply added: ‘No building work has been undertaken on the site and the site is currently only used for a base for the general administration for staff on detached duty and for some prison service staff from the region to use the desks in the building to work from.’

The majority of staff previously at Haslar have been moved elsewhere.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said time was rightly taken over the decision.

She said: ‘It was part of a much wider review of the whole prison estate and it was important that work was done properly and the decision was right.

‘I wouldn’t have wanted a decision to be made hastily.’

Councillor Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, has said he would not want to see houses built there.

An MoJ spokeswoman said the work was standard practice.

She added: ‘The building continues to be used by regional staff to make best use of the site before its disposal and the salaries of those still working there are included in these figures.’