Urgent investment is needed at Littlehey prison to ensure inmates live in “decent” conditions, the jail’s Independent Monitoring Board has said in its annual report.

The prison at Perry, which holds around 1,200 men 98 per cent of whom are sex offenders, was hit by the collapse of building giant Carillion and the report says that some showers have been out of action for more than two years and that boilers which heat some cells have been broken for more than eight months.

Bosses at the prison were forced to provide all prisoners with duvets and additional clothing for those carrying out essential work. Portable heaters were also provided on the wings.

The IMB has taken up the issue of maintenance with both the prisons minister and the prison service.

It said it acknowledged the response from the minister after it raised concerns in January over heating and roof repairs at Littlehey - but wanted to know when £5m of proposed investment would happen.

The board also repeated concerns to the minister over pre-release resettlement for sex offenders, together with strategies for tackling the increasing number of older prisoners and allowing prisons to operate at their certified accommodation levels rather than doubling-up inmates in single cells.

Monitors said they were "very disappointed" with lack of access to the Avon catalogue for the prison's 12 transgender inmates which meant they were unable to live in their chosen gender.

The report described Littlehey as a "relatively safe and decent prison" despite significant challenges during the year, including the collapse of Carillion which had the maintenance contract for the jail which meant acceptable standards were not always met. There were 1,385 emergency jobs outstanding and a further 1,303 planned jobs.

It said that nearly half the prisoners were now aged over 50, with 10 per cent over 70, leading to potential problems with younger inmates, including bullying and assaults.

The IMB is continuing to question the minister as to why no resources are available to help prisoners with release arrangements, with 400-500 being freed directly from the jail, some of whom would not know where they would be spending the night.

IMB chairman Harry Chandler said: "Just because Littlehey does not have the title of being a resettlement prison, the prison is not allocated any central funding to help prisoners find accommodation, work, training when they are released.

"We believe this seriously disadvantages some men."

The board said it was "delighted" by the positive picture of education at the prison where there are 200 Open University or distance learning students.