Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

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 administration.

  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 McAleer.

31 October 2000

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