Thursday, 18 January 2018

CRCs Get a Windfall Not a Bung

The Guardian has been quick to report on yesterday's Public Accounts Committee hearing:- 

Private probation firms face huge losses despite £342m 'bailout'

Private probation companies responsible for supervising more than 200,000 offenders in England and Wales face total losses of more than £100m, even after a £342m “bailout” by the Ministry of Justice, MPs have been told.

Ministry of Justice officials acknowledged on Wednesday that 14 of the 21 community rehabilitation companies were expected to make losses ranging from £2.3m to £43m by 2021-22, partly due to a sharp fall in the number of offenders being sentenced to community punishments.

Details of the state of the part-privatisation of the probation service – introduced by Chris Grayling when he was justice secretary in 2015 – were revealed during a Commons public accounts committee session. MoJ officials declined to comment on whether outsourcing was “an appropriate model” for probation services when pressed by Labour MPs, saying that it was a political question.

During the hearing, Richard Heaton, the MoJ’s permanent secretary, sought to reassure MPs that maintenance contracts for 50 public sector prisons that have been held by the failed outsourcing company Carillion would continue uninterrupted, with state prison staff ready to fill any gaps. Senior MoJ officials even suggested that repairs and maintenance at some jails could improve as a result of a more direct management relationship.

However, they refused to speculate on the position of a second major outsourcing company, Interserve, which is the largest probation provider, with five companies supervising 40,000 offenders in Manchester, Liverpool, Humberside and Hampshire. They said that they had an “open book relationship” with the company, with access to their internal figures, as well as external auditors taking an interest.

Michael Spurr, the chief executive of Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service, told MPs that the future of the private probation companies would be clearer after talks at the end of this month when new figures on reoffending rates were published.

The income of companies is split between fixed-fee payments for supervising offenders on community punishments, and payments-by-results for rehabilitation work with offenders, including 40,000 short-term prisoners upon release. It is possible the companies could receive extra payments-by-results of between £32m and £128m up until 2021-22 for cutting reoffending rates.

Spurr said talks would be held with the companies and then ministers on what further steps might be taken depending on the reoffending data. A National Audit Office report said initial figures showed that the number of further offences committed was actually rising, which could affect the future income of the companies.

Spurr confirmed to MPs that talks were also being held about whether the probation companies could be given extra work. He refused to accept that the MoJ had been engaged in a “bailout” of the private probation companies, saying the £342m in additional fees and projected payments up until 2021-22 amounted to “windfall savings that had been put back into the contract”.


An article in the Independent raises an interesting point regarding the collapse of Carillion:- 

Carillion's Government contracts could have been stopped by a single law. Why wasn't it used?

There’s a law that forces the Government to consider the social consequences of giving contracts to big companies like Carillion. 

In Oxfordshire, firefighters are on standby to deliver school meals now Carillion, propped up for months by government contracts, has gone bust. I wonder if many of those Oxfordshire families had heard of Carillion until they read in the paper on Monday that firefighters, already overstretched in their duties fighting fires and saving lives, might be needed to deliver food to their children.

It’s not just school lunches. A road-building project in Leeds has been thrown into doubt, a bypass in Lincolnshire may need a new contractor to finish works, academies sponsored by a Carillion trust will have to get a new name. At least 25 local councils had contracts with Carillion, including catering and cleaning, major engineering, library management and road gritting. We need wonder no more how one company could properly provide so many specialist services. It couldn’t.

These contracts made Carillion bosses rich: Richard Howson, the former chief executive, took home £1.5m in 2016. But they also made Carillion “too big to fail”. While hedge funds were raking in £18m as Carillion shares slumped after a profit warning in July, the Government continued to award the company contracts, including High Speed Two, worth £1.3 billion.

Carillion is part of what is known as “the shadow state”: a group of large companies secretively awarded Government contracts to run Britain’s public services. There are others. G4S will be remembered for its failures in the run up to the 2012 Olympics; Serco is the stock market’s best bet to mop up the contracts lost by Carillion.

What if, instead of awarding those contracts to another faceless FTSE 100 company, councils employed local businesses to do the work? It would boost jobs and training, nourishing communities, rather than leaving them vulnerable to market forces outside their control. Five years ago, this kind of thinking was the basis for the Public Services (Social Value) Act. Since it came into force in January 2013, public bodies are required to consider the social value of the contracts they award.

One-third of local councils have since used the Act. This amounts to £25bn of public spending being shaped by social values, out of total public spending of £268bn, according to Social Enterprise UK. In Preston, local councillors used the Act as the basis to redirect contracts, from printing services for the police to food for council buildings, towards local businesses. In Plymouth, the local council used the Act to employ CATERed, a co-operative company jointly owned by the council and 67 local schools, to provide school meals.

The Act gives smaller, local businesses a natural advantage. Bidders must prove that how they do business positively impacts the local social and economic value of their area, incentivising good practice and rewarding companies that support communities.

But many of the groups that use it say that it does not go far enough. Public bodies have only to consider social value rather than to embed it in their criteria for awarding contracts. And they only have to do so above a threshold set by the EU, which has increased to over £600,000 for services tendered by the central government, ruling out many smaller contracts.

A review of the Act, called for in January 2017, lost momentum after the snap election. But a review is now essential to give the public sector more confidence to use social value when deciding on how to award contracts – not least because after Brexit, the UK will have to redefine how it wants to run procurement for public services.

The Social Value Act is not a catch-all solution to the shadow state. It will take a change of culture in the Government to stop awarding the same handful of companies lucrative contracts with the understanding that they deliver profits for shareholders over the short term. But it is certainly a good place to start.


Finally, as a result of a parliamentary question from Richard Burgon MP we learn how much HMPPS has paid out over the last 12 months in hotel and travel for prison officers having to be shuttled around the country due to disturbances and staffing shortages:-

Total £2,409,893.31 involving 8129 hotel bookings and 6699 rail tickets costing £247,838.95.


  1. Mass rape and pillage of public funds. Fraud and corruption on a grand scale. Must stop throwing good money after bad. Money that ends up in the hands of greedy, criminal corporates and off shore accounts
    Time to prosecute big time and change the law to end this appalling situation.

  2. Windfall? Maybe the bag of wind could fall on his sword? But there's no chance of that as he hasn't an ounce of decency in his overpaid, under-performing dishonest lifeform.

  3. The hedge funds, who made millions on Carillion, are now betting on Interserve's share price to keep falling.

    Under a CarilIion shadow, I thought Heaton and Spurr had a decent enough grilling by the PAC. There was a defining moment when Spurr - in light of all the claims about the innovations that the private companies would bring to probation – was asked to name just three innovations that have marked the rehabilitation revolution. He waffled in response, citing partnership working, mentoring and other commonsense practices that were core probation practices pre-TR. It was plain to all present that there has been no innovation – unless you include cost-cutting, office closures and degraded working arrangements in open-plan settings and dodgy venues.

  4. Maybe Grayling could cut a deal with his friends at Virgin and Stagecoach to get the cost of the 6699 rail tickets scrapped, as he's just shared nearly £3billion between them, he's responsible for the CRC shambles so ultimately responsible for the £342million they've just been handed, and it was his prison reforms that are essentially responsible for the disturbances and staff shortages that mean staff have to be shuttled around the country.
    Graylings cost to the taxpayer must far exceed Carillions debt many times over!
    Having his monumental cock ups in mind, and having nothing but disgust for the man, I've recently tried to do some research on him as I admit to be very puzzled as to how someone with a second class history degree (albeit from Cambridge) can join the BBC as a trainee to become a BBC producer only a year later and go on to wreck so much havoc in public office.
    The amount of background information I can find on him is so little that I'm left with no alternative but to assume he's either an alien a foreign spy!
    It's suspicious how little can be found on him!


  5. HMP Berwin has almost reached its first birthday. A state of the art super prison that will bring the prison system into the 21st century.
    Hows it doing?

    1. Staff at Wrexham's £250m super-prison have claimed it is unsafe, less than 12 months after it opened.

      The Prison Officers Association (POA) told BBC Wales' Newyddion 9 programme a "culture of fear" existed among staff at HMP Berwyn. The group's chairman, Mark Fairhurst, said "control, order and discipline" needed to be installed.

      A prison service spokesman said HMP Berwyn had performed well since it had opened.

      Mr Fairhurst said security was being compromised at the prison as officers had been told not to intervene straight away if they witnessed a package being passed between visitors and inmates.

      He said officers had been told to "allow that visit to continue and then to search the prisoner once the visit is complete, by which time of course the substance will be secreted or passed on. It might not be drugs that's getting passed on during visits, it could be something more serious."

      Mr Fairhurst also alleged occasions where dog handlers had being stood down because they did not want visitors being turned away, managers allowing inmates to stay out of cells during an alarm and evidence going missing when inappropriate behaviour by prisoners is reported.

      He said he had raised his concerns "at the very top of the tree" but "nothing has changed". Governors at HMP Berwyn had aimed to introduce a new prison culture, prioritising values such as kindness, respect, honesty and rehabilitation. But a former staff member said she resigned after what she described as "bullying" and "being managed out" by staff above her.

      "Because I challenged some behaviours, some managers' behaviour, that was not acceptable to them," she said, adding it had left her feeling "very upset and anxious".

      "I believe if I was still there, it would have destroyed me. It would have destroyed my emotional, physical and mental wellbeing," she added.

      BBC Wales has also seen a resignation letter from an experienced prison officer. It claimed there was a "complete disregard for the safety of staff" at HMP Berwyn, and "staff have no confidence to challenge men".

      It goes on to allege an occasion when managers "completely undermined" the officers "and gave the men what they wanted". The former officer said they were told to "go away in front of the other men" which was "degrading and embarrassing".

      "One of the men even stated 'that's you told', so this reinforced the men's view that us as officers aren't of any value at Berwyn," the officer said.

      "This is the lowest I have ever been in my whole life. A lot of staff are feeling the exact same way... but will not speak up and instead are suffering in silence," the officer said.

      Mr Fairhurst said according to staff he had spoken to, HMP Berwyn "is an unsafe prison".

      He said: "We all want Berwyn to be a success... but let's be honest, the fundamentals and the basics include security, control, order and discipline. If you haven't got that foundation everything else will fail.

      "The culture of fear is surrounding the lack of confidence for prisoners who display threatening, violent or anti-social behaviour... that has to cease."

      He added: "You have to have staff supported and prisoners buying into the idea. But at the moment they are struggling and it will escalate if they don't tackle that situation."

      A prison service spokesman said HMP Berwyn was performing well but "we know more must be done to improve safety across the estate" which included the introduction of body-worn cameras, extra CCTV, and a £100m investment to recruit 2,500 extra officers across the whole service.

      "The prison also meets regularly with the POA to understand the concerns of their members, and to feedback on any relevant progress made," the spokesman added.


    3. Don't Interserve have a finger in the Berwyn pie !!

    4. Sep 19, 2017

      Interserve wins HMP Wrexham Contract

      Interserve has signed a £12 million contract with the Ministry of Justice to run six employment workshops at HMP Berwyn, a large new prison in Wrexham for five years.

    5. Okay, so what are people going to get if they spend £200,000 a month to run employment workshops in one prison? Sounds like it must be state-of-the-art rocket science staffed by University Professors. Shall we assume 24 staff? HMPPS have already told PAC that staffing costs are the majority of rehabiltation services' fixed costs - let's assume 70%, so the 24 staff will be costing £5,000+ a month each - with about £60,000 a month for other costs.

      Not a bad set-up they must have at HMP Berwyn OR...

      ... a shitload of taxpayer money is disappearing into shareholder & execs pockets.

  6. HM inspector gives MoJ urgent notification on HMIP Nottingham as inmates lives are at risk.

    1. An “urgent notification” has been issued by the prisons watchdog for the first time because he warns lives are at risk at HMP Nottingham after inspectors deemed it a “fundamentally unsafe” jail.

      The Chief Inspector of Prisons has put new Justice Secretary David Gauke publicly on notice that Nottingham jail requires immediate action, giving him 28 days to respond in public.

      When inspectors visited HMP Nottingham on 8 January – the third inspection in little over three years – they found serious failures in safety which were repeated from earlier inspections.

      Since 2016, levels of self-harm had risen “very significantly” and eight prisoners were believed to have taken their own lives, according to Chief Inspector Peter Clarke.

      More than two-thirds of men said they had felt unsafe in the prison at some time, and more than a third felt unsafe at the time of the inspection, and there were high levels of drugs, violence and assaults and use of force by staff.

      In a letter to Mr Gauke on 17 January, Mr Clarke said: “Inspection findings at HMP Nottingham tell a story of dramatic decline since 2010.”

      Inspections in 2014, 2016 and 2018 found safety to be “poor”, the lowest HMI Prisons grading. Only one other prison has ever received similar gradings.

      Mr Clarke wrote: “The principal reason I have decided to issue an Urgent Notification…is because for the third time in a row HMI Prisons has found the prison to be fundamentally unsafe.

      “Irrefutable evidence of the failure to respond to HMI Prisons’ inspection findings at Nottingham can be seen not only in the gradings given as a result of the latest inspection, but also in the progress made in implementing previous recommendations.”

      The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), Elizabeth Moody, who investigates all deaths in prisons, welcomed the call for urgent action, saying: “The number of deaths at HMP Nottingham is a matter of real concern and the Prison Service's response to deaths at the prison over recent years has been troubling.”

      The PPO makes recommendations following investigations into deaths in prisons but there has been increasing concern that these are not always acted upon by the Prison Service and that, as a result, mistakes and failures can be repeated.

      Ms Moody added: “It is entirely right that Ministers should now assure themselves that action is taken to prevent this unacceptable state of affairs at Nottingham from continuing.”

      Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “When a prison is failing in its basic duty to keep prisoners safe, it is right that the chief inspector is making prompt use of the notification power given to him by the previous secretary of state.

      "Everything now turns on the current secretary of state providing an adequate response and seeing it through.”

    2. Winchester prison has also been put into special measures and a prisoner raped at knife point at HMP Liverpool.

  7. David Aronavitch, bbc r4, 8pm - unravelling the mysteries of the parole board

  8. Some snippets from "Oral Evidence Taken before the Justice Committee on Wednesday 4 December 2013"

    Q179 Jeremy Corbyn: But you are claiming to achieve 40% efficiency savings on this. Can you honestly say that is going to happen?
    Chris Grayling: I am confident that we can bring down cost. This Committee itself has identified the fact that not enough probation staff time is spent working with offenders.
    Q180 Jeremy Corbyn: are you suggesting there are not enormous skills in the probation service at present?
    Chris Grayling: all those skills, particularly in terms of front-line reoffending, are part of the new package, either as part of the national probation service or as teams of people who will move into the new community rehabilitation companies. We are not throwing away the existing skills but bringing two extra dimensions to what we are doing: the ability to create a more efficient system so that we can afford to support the under-12-month group, and the kind of mentoring and support skills that all of us have probably seen in the voluntary sector, which can make a huge difference.
    Q181 Jeremy Corbyn: Have you measured much the effect of mentoring?
    Chris Grayling: Most recently, the experience in Peterborough is proving to be very good… the Peterborough pilot is the closest to what I think most providers will adopt. That has shown a very substantial decline in reconviction rates. A comparator between the cohort who have been through the Peterborough pilot and a comparable group of prisoners elsewhere who have not shows a gap well in excess of 20% in reconviction events post-release.
    Q182 Jeremy Corbyn: Are you confident that this quite complicated interrelationship between your Ministry, the probation service, private sector providers and the voluntary sector could not break down through lack of communication?
    Chris Grayling: On that front, I see two key relationships for the national probation service. I see an increasingly close working relationship with the police, to the point where, in the end, it would not surprise me if we were to see national probation service teams co‑located with police teams to provide a really effective approach to integrated offender management of the most serious offenders.
    Q183 Chair: Has that operational design been tested in any way?
    Chris Grayling: A lot of testing is taking place now in the trusts, and it will be worked on very carefully.
    We are now going through a pretty rapid process of assigning staff. Leaving aside legal structures, the assignment of staff is taking people who currently work in the same office and reorganising them into two separate teams.
    Q194 Gareth Johnson: It has been suggested by some that the probation service as is could take on more supervision under the current structure of offenders, particularly short-term prisoners, within the current funding arrangements.
    Chris Grayling: The last Government looked at doing precisely this in 2010, having set up the probation trusts, and reached the view that it was unaffordable on the current basis. It is worth saying that the change is not simply about the cost of supervision; it is also about generating additional freedoms, which are difficult to achieve within the public sector.
    Q209 Mr Llwyd: Would you be willing to halt the reassignment process until we as a Committee have reported on this subject, and we plan to do so in January?
    Chris Grayling: No, I am afraid not.
    Jeremy Wright: It is probably worth highlighting that, in terms of the transfer of staff that will take place on 1 April, that will happen under their existing terms and conditions.
    Chris Grayling: I want to provide the staff with a better voluntary redundancy package.

    1. from Russell Webster's site, 6 Dec 2012:

      The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, made it very clear last week in his evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee that he would be rolling out payment by results without waiting to learn from the existing MoJ pilot schemes.

      When asked whether, in the light of the work programme results announced the day before, it was not risky to pursue a PbR approach without more information he replied:

      “In government if you’re going to be a reformer, you have to bite the bullet and reform.”

    2. The full context:

      Q14 Seema Malhotra: The Government have focused on payment by results as a key means of introducing their rehabilitation revolution. The MoJ initially planned for six pilots to test different ways of delivering this. Helen Edwards, the DG for criminal justice at the MoJ, explained the rationale for this, including the fact that it is quite complicated and you need to test ways to get this right. You have abandoned pilots in favour of rolling it out nationally, and, arguably, this will be untested. Do you consider this to be overly-risky?

      Chris Grayling: I don’t consider it to be overly-risky. In government, if you are going to be a reformer you have to bite the bullet and reform. There is a real danger that government just pilots and pilots and, in the end, nothing really happens for years. This is a really important way of delivering much better rehabilitation of offenders.

      My key vision, which I set out in the speech you have seen, is far from the situation at the moment where prisoners, even those who are going to be supported by probation, basically walk out into the street and have an appointment with the probation officer in a few days’ time, and those with short sentences get no support at all. They have just 46 quid in their pockets and go straight back on to the streets. I want there to be better support and mentoring of them when they leave prison and people to help them get their lives back together again. I see the payment-by-results route as the way to deliver that.

      We have some good experience from the pilots that have already taken place. If the Committee has not been to see the work being done in Peterborough, I would encourage and invite you all to do so. I was very impressed by what I saw.

    3. These reproductions of historic transcripts are incredibly tedious

    4. Sorry, Chris. For the sake of those who didn't have the pleasure at the time I thought you'd like to take a stroll down memory lane with me, but clearly I was mistaken. I'm sure if you asked nicely Jim can get them removed.

    5. There is nothing to apologise for. Posting a bit of history may not be thought relevant by some, but there may well be others who are learning a bit of history and getting to know the background issues.

    6. History is the only way to learn from the past and inform the future. I'm extremely grateful to those who take the trouble to root this stuff out and hope they are not put off by one negative comment.

  9. Michael Spurr says that the £342 million paid additionally to the CRC's is windfall money simply being ploughed back into the contract. This is not even being "economic with the truth" as it is downright dishonest. If the CRC's are looking at such vast shortfalls on expected profits, as they themselves have admitted, how can there be a windfall of millions of pounds? There has been no cost savings as the MoJ had to pay out millions for not getting the computer systems ready to "talk to" the CRC systems on time and money has been wasted on associated projects such as monitoring the contracts (fat lot of good that is doing) and on attempting to make some headway (none so far) on Through the Gate. Spurr, like Grayling and others are not strangers to the truth - they have never even been introduced! How do we get rid of such meddlesome "priests"?

  10. Reading this again has brought back the horrors of TR and CG, and a pitiful stupid mantra which never got off the ground has been left to rot, as well as doing the same to those who needed the help which never came.

    I am sorry to repeat what everyone involved in the probation crash since 2013 has always known - what a vile lying creep Chris Grayling is. And Spurr, the weakling, is not far behind him. Dump the pair of them. Go on May, I dare you. Grayling is not fit to organise anything, other than for his own benefit. Once he has massacred one venture awarded him by the shameful Tory Party, he goes on to destroy another. And May leaves him untouched, probably saying to herself 'tut tut'.

    I wish I could say I feel better now, no chance. Not enough people have suffered yet.

  11. 'Interserve will find next Carillion tag hard to shake:
    That didn’t take long. The carcass of Carillion is still warm, yet bets are already being taken on who will be the next casualty in Britain’s crisis-struck outsourcing industry. It’s not a surprise. A gang of hedge funds is thought to have made a cool £300m shorting the life out of the doomed construction giant. Now they are hungry for more.

    The early favourite looks to be Interserve, after its shares crashed as much as 15pc in early trading today, following reports that the Government is closely monitoring the company’s financial health. Interserve was understandably very quick to dismiss suggestions it was next, insisting that its prospects haven’t worsened. In fact, it claimed profits could actually beat City forecasts. Support also came from a Cabinet Office spokesman who said: “We do not believe that any of our strategic suppliers are in a comparable position to Carillion.” Unfortunately for Interserve, there are some pretty obvious similarities.

    Like Carillion, most people won’t have heard of Interserve despite it being another giant contractor that the Government has come to rely heavily on to provide cleaning, security, healthcare, maintenance and many other public sector services. It too employs an army of people – 80,000 worldwide, and 45,000 in the UK, double Carillion’s workforce. It also has a construction arm, which has been involved in a string of high-profile projects including the London Eye, Murrayfield Stadium in Scotland and the refurbishment of Westminster Bridge.

    There are other similarities. Just as it did with Carillion in the months leading up to its collapse, the Government has continued to award the company contracts, some of them rather chunky, despite a series of profit warnings.

    But the one that could leave ministers facing some difficult questions is a £227m contract to provide similar services for the Department for Work and Pensions. Interserve won the work on Oct 20, the day after its latest profit warning. Perhaps more worryingly for Interserve, the City seems to be warming to the parallels. Hedge funds have sharply increased their short positions from less than 1pc last summer to as much as 15pc at last count.

    Meanwhile, its debt is trading at a steep discount to face value, meaning investors have doubts about whether they will recoup their loans.

    The last thing that Interserve needs as management desperately tries to persuade its banks to continue supporting the business is for the debt markets to lose faith.

    Yet with debt levels ballooning from £274m in 2016 to £513m last year, and tipped to hit £600m by the end of 2018, it has a fight on its hands.

    Questions are also being raised about some of the firm’s less conventional lending including private placement notes, and surety bonds, a type of financing that protects counter-parties against potential future losses.

    So while Interserve may feel that the comparisons are unfair, the big problem will be convincing the market. Its statement helped soothe investor nerves – by the end of the day, shares were only off by 0.4pc. What it cannot afford is further bad news because as Carillion found out, the road runs out eventually.'

  12. Some of the £342m windfall may have been better spent here...



    3. Severely ill inmates at Liverpool Prison often wait days to be seen because of poor care and a lack of staff, a senior psychiatrist says. His assessment of mental healthcare, seen by BBC News, says staff shortages present a "substantial clinical risk".

      Separately, a review of the prison, published on Friday, says conditions are the worst inspectors have seen.

      Lancashire Care, which runs healthcare at the jail, said it had spent significant sums on more staffing. However, in a statement, the trust added that it had found it impossible to recruit enough staff.

      The review of mental health provision comes exactly two months after we reported that patients at the prison were dying because of healthcare errors. It was carried out for Lancashire Care by Dr Andrew Forrester, a consultant in forensic psychiatry at the trust.

      In a report dated 20 December last year, Dr Forrester said there was a "gross under-supply of psychiatry in the prison". The lack of staff he says, "presents a substantial clinical risk".

      Looking at the service that is provided, the psychiatrist writes: "There are major deficits in the areas of clinical psychology, social work and occupational therapy."

      The lack of a system to properly process patients, writes Dr Forrester, means that "acutely mentally ill patients who are admitted to the inpatient unit often wait for many days to be seen, potentially compromising their safety".

      Since 2011, there have been 17 suicides at the prison, including three in 2017, one of the highest totals for England according to the Howard League for Penal Reform.

    4. The damning report on Liverpool prison by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, published on Friday, says conditions in the establishment are "squalid". But this is just the latest in a series of major problems faced by the jail.

      With England's prisons regularly described as being in crisis, because of budget and staff cuts, it takes a special level of incompetence to be called the country's worst jail.

      But that is precisely the label bestowed on HMP Liverpool last month by many, including a former prisons inspector, after the BBC revealed the appalling failures at the prison.

      The living conditions: rats, cockroaches, blocked toilets and pools of urine, for instance, said to be the worst that inspectors had ever seen, were described by the then justice secretary as "shocking".

      But few within the prison service could have been surprised. Not only had they overseen the emerging squalor in the prison, but they'd been told repeatedly over a number of years about the problems.

      One of the most damning passages in the leaked report said: "We could see no credible plan to address these basic issues. On the contrary, the presence of inspectors seemed to provoke some piecemeal and superficial attempts at cleaning and the like, but the fear was that this would stop as soon as we left, which is clearly what happened after the last inspection."

      One statistic in the document hammers home the point: of the 89 recommendations made by inspectors in 2015, only 22 had been fully achieved.

      The prison inspectors' view of the prison service, and its commitment to improving Liverpool, is supported by numerous responses to previous critical findings.

      Reacting to the latest report, Michael Spurr, chief executive of Her Majesty's Prison & Probation Service, said the conditions found by inspectors at the prison were "unacceptable".

      And he added: "We are committed to fixing this, have already made changes where we can, and have published a comprehensive action plan to address the chief inspector's concerns."

      Some improvements were made. The 2012 and 2014 inspection reports both noted progress and praised the leadership of the jail. But throughout, the physical conditions there remained challenging. "Some seemingly intractable problems," wrote inspectors in an otherwise fairly positive report in 2014.