Is the UK Border Agency set to lose 22% of staff by 2015?

Published: 24th Jul 2012

"Eight and a half thousand jobs are being cut, 22% of staff at the border are to lose their jobs even though we routinely have queues and passenger anger is rising all the time."

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS Union, Sky News, 23 July 2012

With controversial strikes planned by British border staff during the forthcoming Olympics, Mark Sewotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, took to the airwaves over the weekend to defend the decision, telling Sky News that staffing cuts would risk "the security of the country".

According to Mr Serwotka, almost a quarter of workers are facing redundancy at the UK Border Agency.

This figure was also cited on Thursday by Lord Avebury in a parliamentary speech.

So where is this claim coming from?

Analysis

Plans fo UK Border Agency staff reductions date back to the Spending Review of October 2010 which promised that:

"The UK Border Agency (UKBA) will save around £500 million by reducing the costs of support functions, estates and IT."

This was followed by The Spending Review Settlement for the UK Border Agency which concluded that the UKBA would have to "reduce [its] staff numbers by about 5,200 by 2015" in order to achieve this target, slightly below the 8,500 figure mentioned by Mr Serwotka.

A glance at the PCS website clears up the confusion however when it notes that:

"Of the 8,500 job cuts planned by the Home Office between 2010 and 2014, 5,300 are in the UK Border Agency and border force."

In this light it would appear that the 8,500 job cuts mentioned by Mr Serwotka is a reference to the total losses in the Home Office, with the 22% reduction applying to border staff alone.

This can be more easily substantiated. According to the UKBA Annual report and Accounts 2010-11, the average number of full-time equivalent (FTE) active staff paid during the 2009-10 financial year was 24,474.

Decreasing this figure by 5,200 is a reduction of 21.2%, close enough to the 22% mentioned by Mr Serwotka to be within the rounding margins.

However the number of jobs at UK Border Agnecy has actually been in decline for longer than this period, as the graph below demonstrates:

Immigration Minister Damian Green told the House of Commons that the Govenment "expects to have reduced by about 5,200 posts from the start of the review period to around 18,000 by March 2015."

If we take the 2009/10 staff level of 24,474 as the baseline, a reduction to 18,000 posts would be a cut of nearly 6,500 jobs, which at 27% is a larger proportional cut than even Mr Serwotka claims.

The matter is however complicated slightly by the fact that since March 2012, the UK Border Force has been treated as a separate entity to the Border Agency, and we need to bear in mind that Mr Serwotka's figure applies to both of these bodies combined, rather than individually.

Conclusion

Once we'd cleared up the confusion over the 8,500 figure (which applies to Home Office staff more generally), the source of Mr Serwotka's claim is straightforward: at the beginning of the Spending Review period in 2010 there were approximately 24,474 FTE staff working on the border, which is due to be cut by 5,200 - or almost 22% - by 2015.


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