Local councillors will now have a say over the siting of new bail accommodation following an agreement between the Local Government Association and the Government. It follows concerns that bail hostels were springing up sporadically around the country. Councils have been unhappy that they had little or no say over their location.
The new protocol aims to prevent accommodation being opened without councils and local people being consulted. The LGA has agreed the joint working system with the Ministry of Justice, which contracts ClearSprings, a private company, to provide supported bail accommodation.
Under the protocol the company will consult local authorities, the police and probation service in areas where there is a need for bail accommodation. The idea is that preferred locations and areas to be avoided will be agreed. ClearSprings will respect the need to avoid properties being too close together or in areas where councils and the police are concerned about the over-use of accommodation for similar purposes.
There are currently more than 196 units in England and Wales and that figure is set to rise to 230. In any cases where no agreement can be reached the dispute will be referred to the Director of Offender Management in the National Offender Management Service to be resolved.
Sir Jeremy Beecham, the Vice Chair of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils have been deeply concerned at the previous lack of consultation with councils, police and the probation service about where these units should be sited which completely disregarded the wishes of local people. This protocol puts in place a series of undertakings to ensure bail accommodation will be based in the right places and with the right level of consultation.”