Immigration officers to get new £2.5m uniforms despite staff cuts
The UK Border Agency has come under fire for issuing its staff with a new £2.5 million uniform - after its decision to cut staff has led to lengthy immigration queues.
According to the Telegraph, under current Government plans the number of Border Force officers employed at UK airports will drop from 8,500 to 5,000 by 2015.
Critics point out that the money being used to pay for new uniforms could pay for around 800 immigrate officers, allowing the Government to make its cuts less drastic.
The current blue trousers and jacket will be replaced with a new grey design, and will be branded with the officer's rank.
And, for the first time, there will also be a second more formal uniform, which officers will wear for VIP airport visits and court appearances.
Much of the aviation industry, frustrated by Britain's lengthy immigration process, are disappointed with the move.
Chris Bryant, a Labour Home Office spokesman, told the Telegraph:"At a time when major airlines are reporting major problems at the border due to this government's cuts and morale is at an all-time low, we now discover that £2.5millon is to be spent on redesigning uniforms due to Theresa May's name change.
"The real priority should be extra staff. After all a uniform can't spot a dodgy visa, or stop a drug mule or protect our border. The Home Secretary needs to see sense, step in and fund sufficient officers to guard our borders before it's too late."
And Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, said it "beggars belief", adding: "How can they do this when we are facing the current situation.
"Surely the money would be better spent employing front-line staff to speed passengers through on arrival while maintaining border security."
But a Home Office spokesman defended the decision, saying. "This planned replacement of uniforms will not cost any more. Our existing uniforms have come to the end of their three-year life and we will replace them from within existing budgets. It will not impact on our important work of securing the border."
The news comes as MPs recently warned that Heathrow is "not prepared" for the Olympics because UK Border Force "insufficient funding" will cause delays.
Culture Select Committee chairman John Whittingdale wrote a letter to the Government, which read: "We understand that significant preparations have been made to accommodate unusual sporting equipment, special lanes for the Olympic family, welcoming arrangements for competitors and additional Olympic ambassadors.
"However, far less thought seems to have been given to the issue of how to deal with long queues at immigration.
"The UKBA (UK Border Agency) representative suggested that there was insufficient funding to ensure all passport stations would be open."
What do you think of the UK Border Force staff being issued with new uniforms at a time of staff cuts and immigration issues? Leave your thoughts below...
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