Council leader lashes out over Lincoln prison 'bombshell'
A furious council leader has labelled the Ministry of Justice "utterly irresponsible" in its handling of Lincoln Prison's future.
City of Lincoln Council boss Ric Metcalfe has accused the Government of allow rumours surrounding the Greetwell Road site's future to circle for weeks – affecting the livelihood of thousands in the county.
The Echo revealed last week how a review of the 140-year-old site is being implemented in Westminster.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling may decide to downgrade the prison from a category B to a category C service or shut it altogether and turn it into an immigration centre.
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Mr Metcalfe has also questioned how his city councillors can fully represent the local population so long as the Coalition continues to keep them in the dark about major issues.
Speaking to the Echo, Mr Metcalfe said: "To allow rumours to have circled for weeks has seriously affected the livelihood of people.
"To be honest, the way the Ministry of Justice has handled this has been utterly irresponsible.
"We didn't know anything until the very last minute and that is absolutely no way to treat a local government.
"We are in place to protect and represent our city.
"How are we, as an elected body, supposed to do that if Government keep us in the dark about what is a huge matter?
"I am really very angry about this. The Government has treated us with disregard.
"As an elected body we are entitled to know exactly what is planned for our community.
"The possibility of Lincoln Prison closing, or even being downgraded, is a complete bombshell for Lincoln and of course Lincolnshire too.
"Strategically, it makes no sense."
Mr Metcalfe has already sent a letter to Jeremy Wright, parliamentary under-secretary at the Ministry of Justice, outlining reasons why the city prison cannot close and requesting an immediate meeting with him and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
"I want to speak with them as soon as possible and establish exactly what is going on," continued Mr Metcalfe.
"We will outline reasons why the prison cannot close.
"We have heard nothing from them yet but we need to understand what evidence they have to back up this review.
"We keep getting told by Government of little schemes to stimulate growth and kick-start the local economy and we are bending over backwards to do exactly that.
"So the possible closure, or downgrading of the prison, would completely go against that. It makes no sense for all sorts of reasons."
The Labour councillor also stressed the phenomenal impact the prison's closure would have on the city's economy.
The Echo revealed last week the move would see 500 direct jobs lost across Lincolnshire.
But Mr Metcalfe insists the supply chain to the prison would spell the end for even more.
"It would be an economic catastrophe," he added.
"It would be no exaggeration to say several hundred more jobs would be affected – on top of that 500 figure.
"It needs an extremely large amount of research to be done in terms of finding out exactly how many would be affected by the 'prison chain', through the city and beyond.
"The chain can be likened to that of a small town.
"We have to take into account where the prisoners get their clothes from, their food and their healthcare.
"What about the dentistry and laundry? The knock-on effect this would have is massive.
"The fact is we do not need another immigration centre and that Lincoln Prison is such an unsuitable site for one to go anyway."