A plumber made a round trip of over 320 miles from Birmingham to Norwich to mend a toilet seat – because of a Government contract.
The worker’s marathon journey to fix the lavatory at the East Anglian probation hostel is highlighted in a report compiled by probation officers’ union Napo.
In another case, an electrician made a total journey of hundreds of miles from Newmarket to Birmingham and back to mend an electrical switch.
A repairman drove from London to Cheshire to replace bulbs in an office, a total distance of 175 miles.
Electricians travelled from Manchester to Aberystwyth in West Wales to change light fittings whilst staff at a Leicestershire hostel had to wait weeks for a new part for a lift, which was shipped in from Spain.
The extraordinary cross-country journeys are revealed in the Napo report drawn up to highlight the effects of the decision by the Home Office Property Group to outsource the maintenance and repairs contract for probation hostels and officers.
The report surveyed staff in 26 of 42 probation areas in England and Wales, unearthing a large number of journeys undertaken by contractors for Interserve and Amey, who currently operate the contract for the Home Office Property Group.
The survey encompassed more than 1,000 probation hostels and officers throughout the UK.
Napo assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher said: “Around 18 months ago, the Government centralised and privatised all the maintenance of the properties.
“The contract was re-let in the spring of 2008 and was split between Interserve and Amey. They have only got three or four regional depots and contractors charge for travel.
“It is quite clear that millions are being wasted by the National Offender Management Service on incompetent maintenance contracts. Contractors are travelling hundreds of miles to carry out simple tasks.”
Mr Fletcher said Napo had voiced concerns about the new five-year contract to Justice Secretary Jack Straw.
“People are travelling huge distances and charging a fortune whereas, before, they travelled just around the corner.”
Mr Fletcher said government policies of centralisation lay at the heart of the issue.
The Home Office made no comment.