Cost of prisoner escort service set to soar.

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The cost of ferrying prisoners in Scotland is set to soar.

A NEW contract for prisoner escorts in Scotland is set to cost more than 500,000 per week.

The current contract has already soared to 24m per year, but the new one is set to add another 2m annually.

Taxpayer groups said today they had concerns an equivalent of 71,000 per day could be spent on ferrying prisoners during the recession.

Security firm G4S is set to take on the contract in January. Rival security company Reliance won the previous contract, which was worth 126m when it was agreed by the SPS in 2004.

The Reliance contract was initially predicted to cost 18m a year, but costs have since rocketed to more than 24m per annum.

Current estimates have set the seven year G4S contract as being worth between 165m and 182.25m.

That means the contract could be worth more than 26m per year.

G4S have said the new contract is likely to involve the transportation of about 180,000 prisoners per annum.

It covers the escorting of prisoners in Scotland between jails, police stations and courts, as well as all external visits, such as hospital trips.

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said:

“It’s a seven year contract. These are the broad estimates of what the contract will likely cost. That’s based on historic numbers of prisoner movements. Obviously G4S have got to make their estimates based on something. It’s not an exact science. “

A spokeswoman for the Taxpayers Alliance said:

“With such huge pressures on the public purse, taxpayers need reassurances that these contracts are good value for money. These are large sums of money but equally the Scottish Prison Service and taxpayers alike need to be confident prisoners will be transported securely. As the previous providers contract was due to come to an end next year it is right that it was reviewed. “

Reliance has been responsible for a catalogue of embarrassing incidents during their time in charge of transport for the Scottish Prison Service.

More than 50 prisoners, including teenage killer James McCormick, have escaped from custody while travelling with Reliance.

Last year, Steven Black, 30, who is serving seven years for serious assault, kicked in a door and escaped as his van sat at traffic lights near Shotts jail.

And last April, High Court judge Lord Bracadale slammed Reliance officers for forgetting to bring a murder accused to court.

In November 2007 professor Sheila Bird, of Cambridge University, claimed that the Reliance contract did not make projections for the costs of growing prisoner movements over the life of the contract. She said the original cost estimate of 126 m could be out by tens of millions of pounds.

G4S are the largest security firm in the UK and Ireland, employing 40,000 people and with an annual turnover of 1billion.

Managing director Russell Hobbs has said the firm has

“unrivalled expertise’ in the care and transport of prisoners. He added:

“”We are delighted to be providing court services for Scotland and look forward to working with the Scottish Prison Service.”

G4S are set to take over from Reliance in January.

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