Inmates on the bins

Stock picture of refuse collection
Stock picture of refuse collection
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PRISONERS are being employed over law-abiding citizens on the bin rounds at a local council, it has been revealed.

Inmates from Kirkham Prison are now fully-paid members of staff at Fylde Council – filling positions which more than 40 people applied for.

The council’s top boss has vehemently defended the authority’s right to take on the pair, who both work as bin men, in a move which has been described as “poor timing” by one local business leader.

And the move has left 27-year-old Tom Allen – who is unemployed after missing out on one of the jobs – furious.

Mr Allen, from Salwick, worked for the council as an agency staff member before applying for one of seven jobs advertised at the end of last year, but now finds himself out of work.

He said: “I live on my own and I’m struggling.”

“I ride my push bike into work because I want that job so much – jobs are hard to come by these days.

“I’m one of the best workers Fylde Council had and that’s why I’m not happy.

“I’m now going to struggle to put money into my electric meter.”

Mr Allen was one of around 40 people – including the two inmates - who applied for the permanent positions.

He was interviewed, but Allan Oldfield, the council’s chief executive, said the top seven applicants were given the positions - with the prisoners gaining their jobs fairly in open competition.

Mr Oldfield said he was “proud” the council had been able to take on the prisoners.

The latest unemployment figures show 1,087 people are out of work and claiming Jobseekers Allowance in Fylde.

That is a rise of more than 100 people since December last year and Steve Pye, from the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Federation of Small Businesses, said it showed it was the wrong time for the council to be employing prisoners.

He added: “It would have been a noble idea a few years ago but because of the current economic downturn it’s not such a good idea at this moment in time.

“I just think the timing is poor. There are people who have concerns, who are losing their jobs, so it’s very hard to justify prisoners being given jobs.”

Both the inmates who have been employed are due for release from the Category D open prison next month.

One, who comes from Blackpool, will continue to work at the prison while the second is employed on a fixed-term contract until his release.

Fylde Council refused to disclose to The Gazette what the prisoners were serving time for, but those in HMP Kirkham are classed as “low-risk” inmates.

FOR THE FULL STORY SEE MONDAY’S GAZETTE