Government insists market-testing is not a front for privatisation, but evidence suggests otherwise


The PCS has learned the government’s own bid to run nine prisons might be outsourced to private companies.

Following a process last year that led to the first public sector prison being privatised, more are now being ‘market tested’, with a decision due in November.

The prisons are: Acklington and Castington (Northumberland); Coldingley (Woking); Durham; Hatfield, Lindholme and Moorland (Doncaster); Onley (Rugby); and Wolds (near Goole) which is currently run by G4S. Government policy is that all prisons will eventually be market tested.

But the union has learned that the National Offender Management Services’ own in-house bid, to compete alongside those from large private security companies such as G4S and Serco, will include a plan to outsource all prison instructional officers – staff who help to train prisoners in vocational skills.

In a question and answer briefing issued to staff recently, NOMS managers insisted market testing was not “just a front for privatisation”.

But if the in-house bid is successful, the officers will be transferred to one of two private or voluntary sector organisations –Working Links or the Shaw Trust.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We do not believe the pursuit of profit has any place in our prison system – companies should not be allowed to make money from locking people up.

“So it is a major blow for these public servants to learn that even if their own employer’s bid is successful they will be outsourced anyway.”

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