Taxpayers spend £1m on utility bills for empty prisons

More than £1million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on utility bills for the old prisons over the past five years.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it had spent £1,168,572.25 on heat, water, electricity and sewage for empty prisons since 2017.

The Ministry of Justice said it had ‘significantly reduced’ the cost to taxpayers, although Labor accused the government of continuing to ‘waste thousands of taxpayers’ pounds on empty buildings’.

The department spent £1.9million on bills in 2015/16 for the old prisons, but by 2017/18 that figure had fallen to £278,159.55.

In 2018/19 the amount was £231,913.92, in 2019/20 £306,616.57, in 2020/21 £248,107.64 and in 2021/22 £103,774.57.

The figures were released following a freedom of information (FOI) request from the PA news agency.

Falling utility costs are due to HM Prison and Probation Service unloading surplus properties, and utilities at sites closed for development, such as Glen Parva and Wellingborough, becoming the responsibility of developers during works .

A Department of Justice spokesperson said: ‘We have successfully sold a number of closed sites and significantly reduced the cost to the taxpayer.

‘Labour will end the Tories’ culture of waste’

While acknowledging the decline, Steve Reed, the Shadow Justice Secretary, told the PA: “At a time when many are struggling to heat their homes, it’s hard to believe Tory ministers continue to waste thousands of taxpayers’ pounds on empty buildings.

“Victims and taxpayers are paying dearly for a decade of Conservative neglect of our criminal justice system.

‘Labour will end the Tory’s wasteful culture with an office of value for money to ensure public money is spent wisely.’

The Ministry of Justice said that over the past decade it had raised £128million from the sale of former prison sites and that any money spent on maintenance and utilities was aimed at ensuring that taxpayers get the best possible return when they are sold.

Figures released in Parliament in 2017 showed the Department of Justice spent £11.241 million over the nearly five years between 2012/13 and 2016/17 on utility costs for prisons which were officially closed.

The department then said the level of services was “reduced to what is necessary to maintain the fabric of the buildings and ensure the safety of the sites until their eventual disposal”.

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