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POA calls for ‘incompetent’ Truss to go

JUSTICE Secretary Liz Truss and prison service head Michael Spurr should be sacked for incompetence following the latest damning government statistics on understaffing, the Prison Officers Association said yesterday.

Front-line prison officer numbers fell by more than 300 last year, official figures show, triggering fresh scrutiny of staffing levels as jails tackle a safety crisis.

Latest statistics from the National Offender Management Service (Noms) reveal a loss of 366 staff, many of them experienced officers, last year and 133 over the last quarter.

Leaving rates are calculated as the percentage of permanent staff who left for reasons other than voluntary early departure schemes and redundancy.

Shrinking staffing levels have come under the spotlight in recent months as assaults and suicides behind bars hit record levels.

However, the pledged recruitment drive, which was supposed to provide thousands more officers, has met with a lukewarm response at best, the POA said.

General secretary Steve Gillan told the Star: “If I was prime minister, I would sack Liz Truss and the head of Noms (Michael Spurr) for incompetence.

“There needs to be an independent root-and-branch inquiry into the way the service is being run.

“We warned them years ago not to get rid of older, experienced staff, but they didn’t listen.”

He said the union had warned the government time and time again that the system was in crisis, but “all they seemed interested in was saving money.”

Shadow prisons minister Yasmin Qureshi said: “It’s no wonder ministers tried to sneak this out during the parliamentary recess.

“It would appear Liz Truss’s flagship recruitment drive is failing and front-line officers are still leaving the service.

“We need urgent action to tackle the understaffing which is contributing to the Tories’ prisons crisis.”

In a statement to the Star, the Ministry of Justice said the government was on track to recruit 400 more front-line officers by next month as it works towards its goal of taking on an extra 2,500 in total.

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