National Audit Office Press Releases
Improving the prison estate
The government is failing to provide and maintain safe, secure and decent prisons and its flagship initiatives to address this have not delivered, according to a new National Audit Office report published recently (07 February 2020).
More than 40 per cent of inspected prisons were rated as ‘poor’ or ‘not sufficiently good’ for safety in the last five years.1 Poor safety in prisons has reached all-time highs. Over the last decade, HMPPS (Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service) has taken 1,730 cells permanently out of use and it expects to lose 500 places a year because of the poor conditions of the remaining estate. Over 40% of prisons need major repair or replacement in the next three years. There is currently a backlog of major repairs that will cost £916 million to fix.
There is a surplus of 18,700 places in local prisons for people serving short sentences or on remand awaiting sentencing. However, there is a shortfall of 15,000 training and resettlement places. Local prisons are intended to hold prisoners for a short time. However, they are increasingly holding longer-sentenced prisoners because of the lack of places to support prisoners’ transition into the community.
The government has tried to improve conditions by contracting out prison maintenance and creating new prison places through its flagship Prison Estate Transformation Programme. In 2014-15, HMPPS decided to outsource facilities management and expected to save around £80 million by contracting out to the firms Amey and Carillion, but it has failed to achieve this.
HMPPS has had to spend £143 million more than expected over the last four years.2 It had an inaccurate and incomplete understanding of prison conditions and the services needed. It also severely underestimated the need for reactive maintenance work due to vandalism and breakdown.
HMPPS has struggled to create new prison places. In 2016, it committed to create 10,000 new for old prison places. So far, only 206 have been built with 3,360 under construction.3
The main reason behind these failures was the delays in agreeing and receiving funding to build new prisons. This meant construction work began later than planned. In addition, HMPPS was not able to close old prisons and replace them with new ones due to high demand, which meant it received less money from sales income.4
HMPPS has been focussed on sorting out the immediate needs of the prison estate, investing its resources to address prison population pressures and deteriorating prison conditions. The recent report recommends that HMPPS develop a long-term strategy which sets out exactly what conditions prisoners should be held in and minimum levels of investment needed to ensure a safe, decent environment.
“HMPPS has not been able to create enough prison places, in the right type of prisons and at the right time to meet demand. It has failed to deliver the savings it hoped for by contracting out prison maintenance services. Prisons remain in a poor condition, poor safety has reached record levels, and there are huge maintenance backlogs.
“The Government has recently committed to creating 10,000 new prison places and needs to learn lessons from its recent experiences. Crucially, HMPPS must work with the Ministry of Justice and Treasury to develop a long-term, deliverable strategy that will provide prisons that are fit for purpose.”
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO
Notes for Editors
Proportion of adult prison places in use in December 2019 (around 82,300) against HM Prison & Probation Service's (HMPPS) usable operational capacity of around 84,200
Proportion of adult prisons in England and Wales which were crowded, as at December 2019
Estimated proportion of prisons needing major repair or placement in the next three years to remain operational, as at January 2019, with 2% of prisons
Maintaining the estate
1,730 prison cells taken permanently out of use between 2009-10 and 2019-20
£450 million estimated annual investment needed in the public sector estate over the next 25 years, as at January 2019 (in 2018-19 prices)
63,200 maintenance jobs outstanding in prisons, as at April 2019
£143 million payments to facilities management providers by 2018-19 for reactive maintenance jobs above HMPPS's expectations at business case stage in real terms (in 2018-19 prices)
Transforming the estate
3,566 new prison places HMPPS expects to deliver by 2023-24 against its target of 10,000 new-for-old prison places by 2020
£104 million sales receipts achieved by HMPPS by 2018-19, out of an original target of £321 million by 2020-21
13% of the Prison Estate Transformation Programme’s capital budget spent (£119 million) by end of 2018-19, against its original budget of £928 million in real terms (in 2018-19 prices)
10,000 new prison places announced by the Government in August 2019, in addition to the 3,566 planned to date
- HM Inspectorate of Prisons rated over 40% of inspected prisons as ‘poor’ or ‘not sufficiently good’ for ‘safety’ between 2015-16 and 2019-20. Research commissioned by HMPPS found that the prison environment, including the condition of accommodation, plays a considerable role in how prisoners behave.
- HMPPS expected to pay its facilities management providers £17.7 million for variable costs at business case stage, but by 2018-19 it had paid £160.4 million, a difference of £142.6 million.
- HMPPS has built a new wing at HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) Stocken, in Rutland, and is building two new prisons, in Wellingborough (name not yet confirmed), in Northamptonshire and Glen Parva, in Leicestershire which are due to complete in 2021 and 2023 respectively.
- This money was meant to have been reinvested to fund new prisons but HMPPS only sold one. High demand for places from a growing prison population alongside the reduced supply of cells from deteriorating conditions meant old prisons had to be used rather than sold.
- Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website. Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.
- The National Audit Office (NAO) helps Parliament hold government to account for the way it spends public money. It is independent of government and the civil service. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Gareth Davies, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether government is delivering value for money on behalf of the public, concluding on whether resources have been used efficiently, effectively and with economy. The NAO identifies ways that government can make better use of public money to improve people's lives. It measures this impact annually. In 2018 the NAO's work led to a positive financial impact through reduced costs, improved service delivery,
NAO Press Office
+44 (0)20 7798 7400 or email email@example.com
Latest News from
National Audit Office Press Releases
British Tourist Authority’s annual report and accounts 2018-19 (trading as VisitBritain & VisitEngland)26/05/2020 09:10:00
The 2018-19 accounts of the British Tourist Authority (BTA), also known as VisitBritain and VisitEngland, have received a qualified opinion1 from the Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office, Gareth Davies, due to irregular procurement activities and payments of £1.115 million. This is the third consecutive year that irregular payments have been identified in the NAO’s audits of the BTA’s accounts.
Overview of the UK government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic22/05/2020 11:15:00
Yesterday’s report by the National Audit Office (NAO) provides an overview of government’s wide-ranging response to COVID-19. It has found that between 31 January and 4 May, government made over 500 announcements.
Digital transformation in the NHS15/05/2020 11:25:00
This report was prepared before the Coronavirus pandemic. We recognise that the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS have unprecedented operational priorities to deal with, and we have agreed with them to publish this report because it contains valuable information that will remain relevant and help with digital transformation in the NHS in the longer-term.
Environmental Sustainability Overview14/05/2020 11:15:00
The National Audit Office (NAO) yesterday reported that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made some headway in meeting its environmental sustainability objectives.
Improving the lives of women and girls overseas30/04/2020 13:33:00
The Department for International Development’s (DFID) 2018 Strategic Vision for Gender Equality is ambitious and well-researched but DFID needs to improve its management of the Vision’s implementation if it is to achieve its intended impact, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme24/04/2020 15:43:00
If the Palace of Westminster’s Restoration and Renewal Programme is to successfully deliver a restored and working Palace in the early 2030s, and achieve value for money, the risks associated with complex major infrastructure programmes must be addressed now, according to today’s report by the National Audit Office.
Water supply and demand management25/03/2020 16:15:00
The government must take more concerted action now to prevent parts of southern England running out of water within 20 years, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) report published today.
Universal Credit advances fraud20/03/2020 12:20:00
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has identified nearly 100,000 Universal Credit claimants that it suspects may have claimed an advance1 fraudulently, according to the National Audit Office (NAO). In total, these advances are worth an estimated £100-£150 million.