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Wrexham Councillors will be briefed next week on the ongoing plans for a ‘super prison’ in the town, and will be asked to formally confirm support for the proposals.

The Ministry of Justice says that such a prison would cost £229,000,000 to build, helping to support 117 ‘permanent jobs’. The report states that only 10% of these could be expected to be local.

Local economic benefits are also detailed with claims of 926 jobs being created, with 819 directly at the prison and the rest in ancillary activities. It is stated that 537 of these jobs would be filled by ‘local residents’.

The job figures are based off a 2009 report by the Ministry of Justice, and are exactly the same as presented to the Council in December that year. At the time the data was described as “the most pertinent and up-to-date research with regard to estimating the potential local economic impact of a new large prison”.

Despite over three years passing and the changing economic climate no new data or projections are in place for the job figures, and the data and statement is repeated. The source in the current document is though clearly stated as being from 2009.

In 2009 the benefit to the local economy was stated as £17,700,000. In the report being presented next week the figure is also stated as £17,700,000 despite the three year gap.

Our rough maths indicates that if the £17,700,000 figure was adjusted for RPI ( the retail price index, an indicator of inflation) , to get the same benefit it ought to be around £20,800,000 in 2013. Therefore it would be fair to say the benefit to the local economy of the proposals has decreased by around £3,000,000 – if the numbers are still valid.

Councillors will be told of the ‘substantial’ need for a prison in North Wales, with details of how 95% of male offenders from North Wales are sent to HMP Altcourse on Merseyside. 82% of these come from either the Mold, Caernarfon or Wrexham courts (Crown, Magistrates and County).

The North Wales Regional Leadership Board has indicated four key reasons why a North Wales prison is required, namely:

  • North Wales is the only area in the UK not to have a prison in the region.
  • Prisoners from North Wales would be held in facilities where they can use their first language. The claim is this will also have the benefit of reducing re-offending.
  • Reducing prisoner transport and transport costs/travelling time to court/prison for legal/offender management services.
  • Improving rehabilitation and reducing re-offending rates by enabling closer contact between families and support professions by improving access to the prison.

The report concludes saying “Members are asked to consider this report due to the strategic and significant nature of the proposed project and investment; reports of this nature are not normally submitted to Council for consideration.”

In January this year in an answer to a question posed by local MP Ian Lucas the Under-Secretary of State for Justice Jeremy Wright said “The Ministry of Justice is currently undertaking feasibility work which will include an examination of operating and funding arrangements and determining in more detail the most appropriate location, role and size of a new prison. The cost of a new prison will be dependent on the outcome of this work.”

“The Ministry of Justice will work with the relevant parties in the priority locations to identify potential sites once the feasibility work has been completed.”

MP Ian Lucas said at the time “The answer makes it clear that the proposal is at a very early stage indeed. It is highly likely that no firm plans will be set out before the next General Election. Any decent feasibility study will take a great deal of time, and we need that concrete proposal before we start talking about the impact of what is planned on the local economy, jobs and infrastructure.”

You can read the full report here (PDF) on the Council’s website, and you can view the report given in December 2009 here (.doc) to see what else has or has not changed in three years.