Doncaster’s police custody suite – where prisoners arrested locally are held – now has such health and safety problems that it features on the force’s ‘strategic risk register’.
But it would cost up to £25m to replace both that and the College Road headquarters in the town, and ‘legacy’ costs, such as dealing with the ongoing legal fallout of the Hillsborough disaster almost 30 years ago, means it is currently financially out of reach.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, has described the situation as “really quite concerning”.
Police say they have been working to “mitigate” the problems with the accommodation, which is now outdated, though the impact of that work is limited.
Nigel Hiller, the force’s director of finance, told a meeting of Dr Billings’ Public Accountability Board, which holds senior officers to account: “The risks are being mitigated. However, we cannot make a significant improvement without a new building.”
There are concerns for the welfare of police staff in Doncaster, as well as detainees, as a result of the failings and police are now working to provide reassurance around “compliance issues”, that the buildings are fit to use.
A new custody suite has been opened recently at Shepcote Lane in Sheffield, which takes prisoners from a large area of the county and the custody suite in Barnsley has also been upgraded.
Contractors provided an estimate of the cost of replacing the Doncaster station and custody suite, which would be between £20m and £25m, with the cost of a new site to be added to that sum.
Mr Hiller told the meeting the expenditure would add £2m to the force’s revenue costs, its annual expenditure, and said: “Until we have got over the Hillsborough legacy, we cannot afford that.”
Replacing the custody suite alone would cost an estimated £15m.
Dr Billings said: “This is really quite concerning. It is not a pleasant place to work.
“I don’t see how you can mitigate against flooding, etc etc.”
Police chiefs also have competing demands for a new police headquarters in Rotherham, with no timescale yet available on when replacement accommodation may be found.
In the meantime, police are working to ensure they fully understand the risks involved and whether they can take steps to ensure they comply with regulations.