The Ministry of Justice has been accused of wasting a “colossal” amount of taxpayers’ money after spending more than £130 million refurbishing an old office block for its new headquarters. This is the cost of the project to create a new home for Justice Secretary Jack Straw and his staff.
From the outside, the Ministry of Justice offices look no different from when the Home Office moved out of the same building in 2005. But before the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Jack Straw took residence three months ago, extensive modifications were made inside the structure.
The former open air car park in a central courtyard was given a high-level glass roof to form an atrium with meeting spaces and a canteen. The headquarters also boast an outdoor picnic area with contemporary hardwood furniture.
Harry Fletcher assistant general secretary of the probation union NAPO, condemned the expense. “This is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. This is an extraordinary sense of priorities,” he said.
“At the same time as they are spending a huge amount of money on refurbishing this building, they are about to cut the probation budget by £120m and shed 3,000 prison jobs, all of which will lead to more reoffending and more victims.
“Lavish refurbishment seems more important to ministers than reducing crime.”
In October this year leaked documents revealed secret plans to cut 10,000 jobs over the next three years at the Ministry of Justice and its agencies.
Official documents indicated that 3,000 jobs would go from the Prison Service, more than 3,100 in the courts and more than 1,300 in probation.
“The new headquarters brings together staff from several sites across London and enables the organisation to work much more efficiently,” he said.
“Where possible office furniture has been reused but where necessary furniture has been replaced for logistical reasons.”
Integrated art had been included in the project as recommended by guidelines on better public buildings, he added.
The Ministry of Justice’s offices were designed by architect Sir Basil Spence and opened in 1976. When occupied by the Home Office it was known as 50 Queen Anne’s Gate. It has now been renamed 102 Petty France on reopening.
The Home Office’s new building in nearby Marsham Street, which houses 3,000 staff including some Ministry of Justice workers, cost £311 million to build from scratch.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the “rationalisation” of its estate would bring “substantial future savings”.
I expect a letter of thanks from Mr Straw anyday now, as should every tax payer in the country.
With all the forced budget cuts at the CTCC because of the state of the economy I find I am unable to get a seat at the money trough where all the seats are taken by MP’s and committees who make decisions to ‘invest’ huge amounts of taxpayers money whilst expecting everyone else to put up with the constant, and I mean constant, reasons why we should expect reductions in just about everything connected with the provision of public services. From schools, local services like refuse collection and libraries, care for the elderly, hospital and fire services, armed forces support, prison service and the Police.
If I have missed any worthy causes out then I apologise.
But in real terms they will tell you that they are investing more than ever before on everything, or so the endless and patronising political promotion statements go.
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