UPDATE: More information on announcement that legal challenge may be launched to keep Blundeston Prison open
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A legal challenge is being considered at the High Court to stop the government closing Blundeston Prison and shedding more than 200 jobs there, it has been revealed.
The news that a barrister has been engaged to see if Blundeston Prison should be spared government cost cutting measures was confirmed by Bob Blizzard, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney.
Since the Ministry of Justice announced in September that the prison and three others were to close in an effort to try and save £30m a year, Mr Blizzard has campaigned to try and keep it open.
Mr Blizzard's revelation over the legal bid came after he received a letter from the National Offender Management Service setting out reasons why the 50-year-old prison should be closed.
The letter says Blundeston Prison is in a 'relatively poor condition' and in addition to the routine maintenance liability of £4.4m, the costs of night sanitation, heating and the laundry place 'significant pressures on a tight maintenance budget'.
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Although Mr Blizzard would not reveal yesterday who was considering launching a legal challenge he confirmed the process was gathering pace as he responded to the letter from the National Offender Management Service
He said: 'The letter puts the closure down to the cost of modernising Blundeston Prison, making reference to night sanitation, heating and the laundry.
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'Yet information given to me by prison staff shows that some of this work has in fact already been carried - £20m has been spent in the last two years, including £6.5m on a new laundry and £50,000 on night sanitation, confirmed by the report of the Independent Monitoring Board.
'There is mounting evidence that the closure decision was based on out of date and inaccurate information. The rushed timescale for closure is also contrary to some of the National Offender Management Service's own policies.
'A legal challenge in the High Court is therefore being considered and is very likely with a top barrister already engaged.'
The letter from the National Offender Management Service also said while there would be a loss of income to the Waveney area because of the prison's closure, it is likely many staff will opt work at either Norwich Prison or HMP Bure in north Norfolk.
It is believed many prisoners will be sent to a new adult prison facility at Warren Hill, near Ipswich.
A Prison Service spokesperson said the decision to close Blundeston Prison was made following a thorough assessment by senior managers in the National Offender Management Service, including the suitability of the accommodation.