FM’s prison failures? Don’t blame the guys at the coalface

The huge £916m backlog of maintenance work in our prisons highlighted in this month’s National Audit Office report Improving the Prison Estate as no surprise to anyone working in the sector.

“Due diligence was not sufficiently robust and HMPPS severely underestimated the demand for reactive maintenance work arising from vandalism and failing assets. It expected to pay providers £17.7m for variable costs (reactive maintenance costs above an approved threshold of £750 for each job, excluding vandalism) by 2018/19 – the fourth year of the contracts – but has paid £160.4m, a difference of £142.6m.”

At Airmec, our operatives go into facilities to deal with issues every day and what we see at first hand are estates managers doing their utmost to juggle responsibilities and budgets, and a real desire to migrate from reactive to pre-planned maintenance but the need to focus first and above all on immediate issues and occupant safety all too often still put that on the back burner.

Our CTC security clearances fast site access, experience in working with prison management processes, and expertise in managing infrastructure in high-security premises us cost-effective partner of choice. It also places us well to take a pragmatic, longer-term strategic view.

Is the current backlog a fundamental fault with the very concept of outsourcing? Or is it a symptom of teething problems that will be resolved in the second wave of contracts/renewals to be awarded in May? Or should the blame be laid at the FMs door or that of the purse-string holders in Westminster whose policies seem to preclude longer-term planning?

We all have our views, but don’t blame the guys at the coal face! They are making the very best of the resources they have, and we never see them lose sight of what has become, for us, the stand-out key finding of the NAO: Prisoners are being held in unsafe and crowded conditions.

Between us all, we can do better.

[Posted 14 02 20]

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