Thursday, 2 August 2012

Political will (if any) trounced by Dame Helen Ghosh and the Whitehall ancien régime

Trust the Home Office.

Last year's annual report and accounts to 31 March 2011 said that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) reduced its staff by about 1,900 during 2010-11 and planned to reduce it by a further 3,500 by 31 March 2015. These reductions would all be achieved by "efficiencies".

So there they were, dutifully implementing government policy, cutting staff.

On 22 November 2011, Dame Helen Ghosh DCB, permanent secretary at the Home Office, gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee and said that the Border Force – part of UKBA at the time – would be reduced by 900 or so:
... that is driven as much by technological introductions like e-gates, as well as a risk-based approach. Border Force will be getting smaller ...
Advanced risk management and technology, all very modern, just the ticket for 21st century government, spearheaded by the dependable brainpower at the top of the Home Office.

Since then we have had queues at Heathrow, one actual strike by the Border Force and one threatened one and now what do the Times tell us?
Border Force in recruitment drive U-turn
Hundreds of new immigration officers are to be recruited by the UK Border Force weeks after it disclosed that 450 staff were cut last year to meet government spending cuts ...

The Home Office also admitted that advertisements for the new jobs placed on a Civil Service website said, inaccurately, that 800 new staff were required ...

Over the next few weeks it intends to recruit more officers than the total of 457 lost in the year to March 2012 ...

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I find it extraordinary that a year after making so many people redundant and paying so much in terms of redundancy costs, the very same organisation is now recruiting more immigration officers. It shows a lack of strategic planning concerning staff at both the UK Border Agency and UK Border Force” ...
Given that the technology doesn't work and we're going back to the 19th century and using people, will the technology contracts for eGates and  Jackie Keane's Immigration and Asylum Biometric Service be cancelled?

No.

We shall simply pay for both – for the additional staff and for the technology that doesn't work. The budget deficit will have to be cut somewhere else, not at Dame Helen's 21st century modern Home Office. Predictable result:

Whitehall 1 - 0 Westminster

Trust the Home Office.

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