THE independent monitoring board of Erlestoke Prison, near Devizes, is to write to Home Secretary David Blunkett complaining about the removal of their governor Claudia Sturt after less than a year in post.

Ms Sturt, the governor of Erlestoke since last August, has been head-hunted for the challenging post of governor of Dartmoor Prison.

She left on Friday, only a week after announcing her decision to accept the new post to staff. In the past five years, Erlestoke has had four different governors.

Quentin Goggs, the chairman of the prison's independent monitoring board, formerly the board of visitors, said: "We are all very sorry to be losing Claudia. She is a lady very much on the way up and has done Erlestoke a tremendous amount of good.

"It is very unfortunate she has been pinched to solve the crisis at Dartmoor. Everyone feels it is ridiculously early for her to go and I have been asked to write to the Home Office to complain about it.

"Erlestoke does tend to be a staging post for governors on the way up and they stay on average for about two years, but Claudia is leaving in less than half that time."

Ms Sturt said the speed of her recruitment to Dartmoor amazed even her. She told the Gazette: "The post at Dartmoor wasn't even advertised. I got back from holiday to find a message asking me to consider taking on the governorship at Dartmoor. I have had a dream since joining the Prison Service ten years ago of running Dartmoor and now it is to become a reality."

Erlestoke was Ms Sturt's first command post in the Prison Service.

She said: "I have had the happiest year of my life working at Erlestoke. It was like pushing at an open door. Everything was easy and relationships among the staff have been excellent."

Ms Sturt said an inspection report on Erlestoke was about to be published and officials at the jail are confident is going to be extremely positive.

During her governorship there have been no escapes from the prison, thanks in large measure to the work of her deputy, Kenny Brown, who will be standing in as acting governor until a new chief is appointed, although Mr Brown is considered to be a strong contender to take over the post.

Community relationships have also strengthened during her administration.