“Kent will turn into a car park” – PCS warns of post-Brexit chaos

Staffing problems and a severe lack of planning shows the Home Office is directionless and completely unprepared for Brexit, says the PCS.

Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday, the union explained the huge problems facing the civil service due to staffing shortages.

The committee heard thousands of our members who work across the Home Office including in the Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), HM Passport Office and Policy are already overstretched and facing massive uncertainty.

The main issue facing the union’s Home Office members is the uncertainty about what the laws, processes and procedures will be following exiting the EU. The union says because there is not a lot of detail coming out from negotiations between the UK government and the EU and what a potential deal will look like, there is a lot of vagueness about what will be required after March 2019. Staff feel they are being kept in the dark over the implications of Brexit and have raised concerns about the lack of information being shared with them by management.

PCS Home Office group secretary Mike Jones said: : “Senior managers at the Home Office have been left completely in the lurch by a government that has got no clue of the way forward. They’ve got themselves into real difficulty and it’s an absolute shambles because no one in the Home Office has been told what they need to do prepare for Brexit.”

Answering a question about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, Mike Jones replied: “With a no-deal Brexit, Kent would become a car park given the time taken presently to check freight from non EU countries. There was no preparation done by Home Office Ministers at the time of the referendum” He described the then Home Secretary, now Prime Minister Theresa May’s lack of planning and direction ” a dereliction of her duties”

PCS told the committee that we share their concerns that the proposed 252 increase in border staffing is completely unconvincing. In the Border Force, the lack of staffing has already meant members diverted from the secondary, customs work, to the primary immigration control point. Our concerns are increased by the fact that the Home Office currently struggles to hold on to the staff it has.

At Luton airport, for example, where new staff are employed on new, poorer terms and conditions, they are trained over a period of several months, and many are leaving because of horrendous shift patterns and no prospects of a pay rise because of the 1% public sector pay cap. This is the same situation at all ports and airports.

Home secretary Amber Rudd has previously told the committee that an extra 1,200 UKVI staff are being recruited to deal with the increased workload within European casework as a result of leaving the EU, with 700 already recruited and 500 planned by April 2018.

PCS does not recognise this figure. About 240 staff have been recruited so far not the 700 that has been claimed, and European Casework is looking to recruit a further 500 staff in the new year. PCS would welcome the 1,200 new jobs as the minimum required as our members working in UKVI already report being stretched by high workloads so any increases because of Brexit will have a massive impact. However due to high turnover of staff the extra staff are in effect just filling existing vacancies.

PCS also have concerns about the lack of clarity over what is planned at the Northern Ireland border and the inadequate staffing to cover 4 major sea ports, 3 main airports and a land border over 335 miles long. There are currently 57 Border Force officers in Northern Ireland and just 6 more are being recruited to deal with Brexit.

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