Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from
the Prison Governors' Association (Northern Ireland)
I have only received your letter of invitation
to the Select Committee today. I am concerned that we have been
given such short notice to prepare for attendance on 8 November.
Our membership has radically changed; we are a completely new
committee and do not have the benefit of the experience of our
association members who appeared before you previously. None of
our committee is media trained and therefore we feel doubly disadvantaged
in appearing before you. That said, there are issues that we wish
to put before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and we would
be prepared to attend as requested.
We are constantly compared against the frequently
quoted "Cost per Prisoner Place". There has to be a
more realistic bench marking. Quite simply, the Northern Ireland
Prison Service cannot hope to deliver the economies of scale comparable
to England and Wales. Instead, each of our institutions (including
Prison Service Headquarters) should be benchmarked against areas
of equivalent function. If this were to be done, it would probably
show that our Service carries a large overhead of centralised
At a time when we seek to reduce the layers
of management it is perverse for a new Prison Service Board to
administer the Service without any direct input from governing
governors. Indeed, governing governors can only formally represent
their views to the Board through line management. This appears
to be a contradiction and does not adequately allow the views
of operational governors to be represented. This is an important
deficiency that needs to be corrected.
Our Association generally endorses the Statement
of Purpose of the NIPS. However, we would have some reservations
concerning continuing inefficiencies and inappropriate levels
of accountability within the Service and would be happy to elaborate
on this issue to the Committee.
The PGA has no difficulty with the overall content
of the Business Plan and are happy to play a role in its delivery.
However we do have some concerns about the proposed review of
pay and conditions which are to take place in the near future.
Our reservations are not with the principle but the system that
may be recommended.
You will appreciate that these comments are,
of necessity, brief. We will be represented by our Chairman, Gerry
31 October 2000