Border Agency 'rewarding failure' over £3.6m bonuses

 

Managers at the troubled UK Border Agency have received bonuses of up to £10,000 just days after facing fierce criticism over recent chaotic scenes at Heathrow airport.

The pay-outs, part of a £3.6m package of rewards for senior staff last year, were condemned yesterday as a reward for failure on the day the border force faced fresh criticism for contributing to Heathrow's queues by poor planning, including allowing staff to sign off at busiest times.

Damian Green, the Immigration minister, was forced to draft in 80 extra staff last week to cope with passenger numbers at Heathrow. Non-EU travellers had to wait up to three hours to have their passports checked, prompting accusations that Britain's international reputation was suffering severe damage.

Figures obtained by the BBC from a Freedom of Information request show the UKBA paid out more than £11m in performance-related bonuses in the last three years. The total reward of £3.6m in 2010-11 included at least two payments of £10,000.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, said he was shocked by payments at the agency, which he said has been "plagued by failures." A Home Office spokesman said the average bonus was just over £500 and rewards were only rewarded when "strict criteria" were achieved.

John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, increased the pressure on the Border Force yesterday as he painted a damning picture of inefficiency at Heathrow. He said the force had failed to respond to cuts in staff numbers by marshalling resources more effectively. "Resources were not matched to demand, management oversight and assurance was lacking in many areas and staff were not always properly trained," he said.

In a separate report on Gatwick's North Terminal, Mr Vine said he was "very concerned" that customs officers were using their discretion without the authority to do so.

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