THE number of foreign criminals being sent home from UK prisons has dropped “significantly” in the last four years, the Government’s spending watchdog has warned.
A report released today by the National Audit Office (NAO) says removing more foreign nationals would help reduce prison numbers and save taxpayers’ money.
There are around 11,000 foreign national prisoners in England and Wales, making up 13 per cent of the prison population, but the number removed by the Home Office has dropped by 14 per cent over the last four years.
In a report, the NAO found that, although the Home Office removes more than 1,000 foreign prisoners every quarter, the number has fallen from 5,528 in the final quarter of 2009 to 4,730 at the end of the second quarter of this year.
With the cost of 1,000 prison places at around £28m a year, reducing numbers is the best way to save money, it said.
Its report noted a significant improvement in value for money, with new prisons providing good, modern accommodation.
But inmates still routinely share cells, some in overcrowded conditions. And in a bid to make savings, some high-performing prisons were closed before newly-built ones started to perform well.
Earlier this year the Home Office announced plans to shut HMP Northallerton, one of a number of prisons closed or earmarked for closure despite being rated highly in recent inspections.
The report said: “Removing more prisoners, or removing them earlier in their sentences, would significantly reduce costs.”
Some delays were beyond the Home Office’s control, including people hiding their true identities and complex human rights issues, but others were down to blunders.
NAO head Amyas Morse said: “The agency urgently needs to improve new prisons and look at ways to close fewer high-performing ones in future.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Immigration Bill will reduce the 17 rights of appeal to four and allow us to remove people while their appeals are ongoing.”