Serco starts operating £800m ten-year Prisoner Escort and Custody Services contract

On Saturday 29 of August, Serco started operating a new contract with the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to provide Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (PECS) for the South of England region. 

Under the contract, Serco is responsible for the safe and secure transportation of prisoners between prisons and courts, and for the safe and secure custody of prisoners while at court.

As part of the new contract, Serco has invested in a new fleet of vehicles together with an IT upgrade which will deliver further improvements to the strong performance and innovation we have already delivered over recent years.

The contracts tendered by the MoJ were for two regions of England and Wales, broadly North and South. Serco now provides the service across the whole of the South of England region, which includes an area as far north as Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. This represents a significantly increased geographical area in comparison to our previous contract, which is for just one of four regions (being London and the East of England). 

Chris Hodkinson, Contract Director for PECS commenting on the increased scale of the new contract, said: “In terms of scale it is a big leap - with the number of courts we look after rising from 52 to 105, and our total area of responsibility expanding from 11,000 to 28,000 square miles, whilst we will also double the amount of people we look after on a monthly basis from 15,000 to 30,000.”

When asked about the challenges PECS faced during the transition to the new contract, Chris said: “I’d say that there are three main challenges that we’ve seen with this new contract. Firstly, the increase in automation, incorporating new and bespoke operational IT, which inevitably comes with a greater complexity and risk in our daily operations as we get it up and running.

“Another challenge has been the complex and sizeable process of bringing some 800 staff from GeoAmey into the Serco PECS family.

“And lastly, with the new generation of PECS come new key performance indicators (KPIs) that are in many ways more exacting and demanding than the KPIs in our previous generation of contract of PECS 3.  We have had to work hard to make sure that what we are standing up is going to deliver to them.”

Serco’s previous contract was awarded in March 2011 and was valued at approximately £285m over its initial seven-year period; it was subsequently extended through to August 2020. Serco’s revenue on the previous contract for the 2019 financial year is expected to be around £41m, and losses on the generation 3 contract, which in our Trading Profit are offset by the utilisation of the Onerous Contract Provision (OCP), are anticipated to be around £6m.

Rupert Soames, Serco Group Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this major contract to provide prisoner escort and custody services for the Ministry of Justice across the whole of the South of England region. Looking after prisoners as they are transported between secure locations and during their time in court is a sensitive and demanding role and their welfare and security is at the heart of our operations.  In recent years our performance has steadily and significantly improved, and today our team provides an outstanding service in what are often very challenging conditions.”