Ashfield prison to lose nearly 200 staff

Cllrs Ben Stokes and Steve Reade at HMYOI Ashfield in Pucklechurch.

Plans to halve staff numbers at the Ashfield prison facility in Pucklechurch will come as a ‘hammer blow’ to the local community, according to the village’s campaigning councillors.

Serco Group plc – the contractors who manage and operate the facility – have announced 194 job losses as part of wider plans spearheaded by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), part of the Ministry of Justice, to convert the young offenders institution to an adult male category C sex offenders prison.

Local councillors have been told that the number of staff required to work with adult category C prisoners compared to young people is significantly less as the new adult population does not require the same high levels of supervision or teaching.

Serco’s announcement comes following the conclusion of contractual negotiations with NOMS that will see the prison change take effect from 1st July.

All young people previously at Ashfield have now left the facility and 60 sex offenders a week are expected to arrive at the prison, which will see its full 400 capacity reached by the end of August.

Local Conservative Boyd Valley councillors Ben Stokes and Steve Reade have been leading the campaign against the plans on behalf of local people – they invited prison chiefs to a public meeting, carried out a survey of village residents, triggered an emergency vote on the plans at South Gloucestershire Council and have called for a local community liaison group to be formed.

Reacting to the news, they said:

“The Ashfield facility is an important local employer and the village was just getting used to the sad inevitability that Ashfield’s role was changing quite radically.”

“It was bad enough to be told without any consultation that 400 sex offenders are moving into our village, but to be also told that half the staff are to lose their jobs at Ashfield is something that will come as a hammer blow not just to those who have family members currently working at the facility, but also to the wider village economy.”

“We have been told by Serco that it’s exploring every avenue to help staff through these changes including voluntary redundancy and redeployment, including transferring some staff to the charity Catch22, who will be providing case working support at Ashfield.”

“We are seeking urgent assurances about the number of compulsory redundancies and want to see the first community liaison group meeting organised as soon as possible.”

Photo: Cllrs Ben Stokes and Steve Reade at HMYOI Ashfield.

Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council