Melling – When is a shock not a shock at all? – Closure of Kennet Prison

Recent Liverpool Echo and Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper stories refer:-

If you lived in Melling or Maghull when this prison was originally foisted on the community you may recall that that undertakings were given back then (2006/2007) that it would only be a temporary prison and that the land had only been leased for 10 years. This information is no state secret and was readily available back then and it’s less than 10 years ago that it all happened.

Yes the government of the day has since changed twice since 2007 first to the Coalition and more recently to a Tory one but as far as I can see all the present Tory Government has done is to carry out the undertaking made by Labour when they opened the prison, nothing more, nothing less.

So where is the shock? Surely the shock would have been if the Tories had decided to extend the lease or even make the prison permanent, would it not?

As for our MP who seems to want to scrutinise the present Government’s decision to close the prison, what is there to scrutinise? We are told it is overcrowded and unsuitable for a prison due to its layout etc. Yes, the unsuitability of the buildings seems to me to be correct. As for the overcrowding, it either has too many prisoners in it or it does not. If there are too many then that is clearly unacceptable.

So what does the MP want to scrutinise? Does he think it is suitable to be a permanent prison or at least to be kept open for a longer period? Does he think that the overcrowding needs to be investigated? Does he feel that the undertaking of the last Labour Government was wrong and that the present Tory Government should not have stuck to those undertakings? It would help if he was clearer as to what shocked him about the recent announcement and what he feels needs to be scrutinised because at present there has been no shock and things have proceeded as they were seemingly meant to.

Is this story just a reflection of the 24/7 news environment we seem to live in these days where even ordinary run of the mill stories are ‘bigged up’ and put before us by the media on the basis that we can’t recall what happened last week so will be shocked by information that is no shock at all?

My letter to the Champion newspaper which followed up the Liverpool Echo and Champion ‘shock’ stories is below:-

Dear Sir,

The closure of Melling’s Kennet Prison is far from the massive shock that local Labour MP Bill Esterson seems to believe.

It is of course a huge concern for the prison employees and as a trade unionist I share their worries but let’s not forget that Kennet was only ever intended to be a temporary Prison. Indeed, it was the last Labour Government that told us it would be temporary when they opened it nearly 10 years ago via a short-term lease from Merseycare NHS Trust. Mr Esterson may not recall this however as he was a councillor in Medway, Kent back then.

As for Mr Esterson’s over the top claim that the closure ‘undermines the safety and security of our country’ this really does stretch the imagination too far.

But underneath the MP’s political hyperbole Kennet has indeed had a positive effect on its local community because it has for example assisted with Maghull in Bloom’s work. So as it is wound down lets remember it for its positive contribution.

The reality is though that what has happened is the present Government has carried out the pledge of the last Labour Government i.e. that the prison would be only temporary – where is the shock in that Mr. Esterson? Don’t you want the Tory Government to honour the Labour Government commitment? Do you feel that the Labour pledge was wrong?

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Tony Robertson

Lydiate Parish Councillor