Archive for February, 2012
A NEW report has blasted the controversial privatisation of Birmingham Prison – claiming it took too long and hit staff morale.
The Independent Monitoring Board’s last examination of the jail described staff and prisoner morale as “palpably low” during the handover from the public sector to private security firm G4S.
The company took over the running of the prison last October, but the process was “continually delayed” by the government’s bidding process, said the report.
The document said the takeover took too long to complete, with the process running from the initial announcement last March.
The Prison Service was also competing to retain control of the jail and the uncertainty surrounding the final privatisation decision was said to have caused uncertainty for inmates. But the report praised prison staff who continued to cope with increasing problems, such as gang culture.
It also recommended that “lessons be learned from HMP Birmingham’s experience” and that similar processes should be shortened. Nine other prisons will also go through the market-testing process.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We will formally respond to the IMB report on HMP Birmingham in due course.
“The public have a right to expect continuing improvement in the quality and efficiency of public services, without compromising public safety. The competition strategy and adjustments to the prison estate will help ensure that this is the case, while achieving best value for taxpayers.”
The takeover of Birmingham Prison was dogged by complaints over staff shortages. The prison was also placed on lockdown when a set of keys which fitted every door went missing soon after the privatisation process was completed. Independent Monitoring Boards are made up of volunteers, who study prison conditions and ensure proper standards of care and decency are maintained.
The more people there are, the greater amount of food is needed. If there is not enough food to feed people in a specific place, then there is food shortage in that place.
When people do not get enough food, their health is affected. People become undernourished when they do not have enough food to eat. Undernourished children are more likely to get sick.
When population increases, the demand for water also increases. Farmers need more water to irrigate their fields so that they can produce more crops. Factories need more water to use in manufacturing more goods. More households need more water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes, personal hygiene and many other activities.
Water shortage is evident when people have to walk a long way to get water, or when they have to queue up to get it.
Many people do not have access to potable water. They get their water from springs, rivers, wells and rain.
The quality of water that people get may be poor.
Water shortage in a community can bring about problems related to sanitation and health.
The population of a place increases in just a short time. However, the space in a place remains the same.
When the houses in a neighborhood are overcrowded, it shows that the population in the area is too big. This is a common sight in a city.
Many poor people build shanties along creeks, in dumpsites or along railroads. More than one family may share a shanty.
Overpopulation in a community can limit space for housing.
Food shortage, overcrowding, poor water supply and environmental pollution affect the health of the people, particularly the children.
Poor environmental sanitation is a major cause of diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid and cholera. Dirty insects such as flies and cockroaches contaminate food with disease-causing germs.
Many children who play barefoot in dirty areas and do not wash their hands before eating become infected with worms.
Some respiratory diseases such as tuberculosos, pneumonia and bronchitis are worsened by polluted air.
Communicable diseases can easily be transferred from one person to another in an overpopulated area.
More people generate more waste. Solid wastes such as plastics, tin cans and bottles, when not properly disposed of, become eyesores in a place. Garbage and sewage, if left untreated, can pollute the water supply.
More people need more things to use so more factories are built, more transportation facilities are made and more products are manufactured. This means more fuels are burned. The more fuels are burned, the more polluted the air becomes.
Within two years, England will overtake Holland as the most populous major country – and it will get progressively worse.
According to the Office for National Statistics, England’s population will rise to 521 people for every square kilometre by 2056, compared with 390 individuals per sq km in 2006.
England is already one of the most densely populated countries in the world, let alone in Europe. It has nearly twice the population density of Germany, four times that of France and 12 times that of the USA.
Inevitably, the South will take the brunt of the increase, placing further strain on housing and transport, which are already almost at breaking point.
The main driver for this increase is immigration, which has also produced higher levels of childbirth. More people are also living to a ripe old age. If current trends continue, then the UK population could rise to 108 million in a lifetime.
Until fairly recently, demographers believed the population would stabilise at around 60 million and then decline. In other words, there was no long-term policy planning for the population we have today, let alone what we now face.
The inevitable consequences are less space, more costly land, smaller but dearer homes, congested roads, packed trains, overburdened hospitals, oversubscribed schools, new towns and pressures on resources.
Since England will remain an attractive destination for many immigrants, who often bring their entrepreneurial dynamism with them, it would help matters if more people moved to other, less crowded parts of Britain.
But we are such a top-heavy nation, with a capital city more dominant than any in Europe, that this is unlikely to happen unless more jobs are created elsewhere in the country.
The announcement came as Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman hosted a drought summit.
In parts of south-east England groundwater levels are lower than in the infamously dry summer of 1976.
Water companies are ready to bring in hosepipe bans from early spring, where necessary, Defra says.
The firms have agreed measures to reduce the environmental impact of dry conditions, including reducing water losses and improving leak detection, as well as encouraging customers to save water.
The Environment Agency will also take steps such as monitoring the impact of the dry weather on fisheries and wildlife.
Ms Spelman said after the summit: “Drought is already an issue this year with the South East, Anglia and other parts of the UK now officially in drought, and more areas are likely to be affected as we continue to experience a prolonged period of very low rainfall.
“It is not just the responsibility of government, water companies and businesses to act against drought.
“We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now.”
Mary Creagh, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, described the drought summit as being “more talk and no action”.
“The Tory-led government is out of touch with the pressures facing families – the fact that it has postponed its long-awaited Water Bill means that there will be no action to tackle unsustainable water usage or to help households facing rising water bills for at least another two years,” she said.
Water companies, farmers and wildlife groups were invited to discuss the situation at the summit.
Thames Water’s sustainability director Richard Aylard said: “There is a high chance we will need restrictions at some stage this summer unless either we get a lot of rain or fantastic co-operation from customers using less water.”
He urged people to turn off taps while cleaning their teeth, take shorter showers, fix leaks and only wash laundry with a full load.
The South East joins parts of eastern England which have been in a drought situation since last summer.
That contrasts markedly with Scotland, where reservoirs are between 93% and 97% full.
Ms Spelman said she wanted water companies to look at the possibility of connecting pipe networks so they could transfer water from wetter areas.
Severn Trent’s water director, Andy Smith, said each water company had tended to focus on its own area.
“We should be looking at interconnecting the networks between the various water companies.
Low river levels
“There will be opportunities with relatively small levels of investment to make inter-connections between different organisations to try and get the water from the north and the west where it’s relatively wet down to the south and the east.”
The lack of rain, over the course of two dry winters, appeared to be continuing last month.
South-east England received just two-thirds of the long-term average rainfall for January.
Rainfall has been below average for 18 of the last 23 months in the Thames Valley region and London.
Flows in the River Lee, which passes through Hertfordshire and parts of north-east London, are at less than a quarter of the long-term average for the waterway.
And the Kennet, in Wiltshire, has seen flows of just 31% of its average levels.
The river has dried up completely to the west of Marlborough.
Meanwhile, the Darent, in Kent, is at extremely low levels, as is the Wye in Surrey.
Paige Chivers, from Bispham, Blackpool, disappeared in August 2007 at the age of 15 after a row at her family home.
Police said there had been no confirmed sightings of her since or proof that she was still alive.
Det Supt Dermott Horrigan, who is leading the investigation, said they had “exhausted potential leads” for Paige, who would now be 20.
He said: “We remain committed to finding out the truth about what has happened to Paige.”
He said it was never too late for people to come forward with new information.
Paige was due to inherit a substantial amount of money on her 18th birthday following the death of her mother, police said.
Four people have previously been arrested on suspicion of Paige’s murder but all have been released without charge.