UK immigration authorities admit laying off too many staff to save costs

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Dame Helen Ghosh, the civil servant who is Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, has said that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the UK Border Force (UKBF) had persuaded too many staff to leave with redundancy packages in 2010-2011. She revealed that 104 staff who left with generous redundancy packages have since been re-employed.

Dame Helen told the UK House of Commons Public Accounts Committee 'If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn't have necessarily let so many people go.' The UKBA gave voluntary redundancy packages to 639 employees in 2010-2011 and to 1,092 people in 2011-2012. They were paid a total of £59.7m making an average pay off of nearly £35,000 per person. The average payoff at the UKBF was £54,000. The Daily Telegraph calculates that the 104 staff now working for UKBA and UKBF would have been paid £4m in redundancy payments.

The UKBA and the UKBF are responsible for policing the UK's borders. The UKBF is responsible for frontline staff at sea, rail and air ports. They were split in March 2012.

In front of the Committee, Dame Helen was asked about re-employing staff who had already had a payoff. Committee chair Margaret Hodge said 'It does slightly stick in the gullet that you go off, you take your early retirement or your redundancy payment, you come back on a temporary contract and you get a double ticket.'

But Dame Helen said that to re-employ the staff, who had already been trained, was the sensible course of action. 'It would be wilfully throwing away a group of people with skills to say 'the one group of people we will not employ are those who left under these circumstances.'

She added that, because there were seasonal fluctuations in staff requirements, to re-employ them on temporary contracts made sense. She said that all staff who returned to work for the UK immigration authorities had had to wait for six months before working again or they would have had to repay their lump sum payments.

Dame Helen told the Public Accounts Committee on 5th September 2012 that UK immigration authorities had spent £6m on drafting in temporary border staff during the Olympics and Paralympics. The temporary staff employed included former UK immigration workers and Ministry of Defence Police.

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