White & Case seals prison PFI role for Serco Group

Longstanding White & Case client Serco has been awarded preferred bidder status on the £600m Belmarsh West and Maghull new-build prisons PFI, The Lawyer understands.

Relationship partner Anthony Fine is thought to be advising a consortium made up of Serco Group and Skanska on the venture.

Skanska will start building the facilities at Belmarsh West in South East London and Maghull in Liverpool in 2010, while Serco will operate the prisons. The prisons will have a combined capacity to house 1,700 inmates over 26 and a half years. The contract was awarded by the Ministry of Justice’s
(MoJ) National Offender ­Management Service.

Eversheds head of projects Jonathan Cripps is advising the MoJ on the scheme, having picked up the client several years ago.

The combined prisons project has elicited criticism for the length of time that it has been in the pipeline and is thought to have triggered a rethink on how to speed up the procurement process.

Financial close had been mooted for the end of this year, but one partner with knowledge of the project said: “I’d be surprised [in the current market] if they got it together by the autumn.”

Cripps was unavailable for comment, while Fine declined to comment.