Home Office is in Urgent need of reform, says ex-watchdog Boss.

The Home Office is “dysfunctional” and in desperate need of reform, the sacked borders watchdog David Neal has said in his latest broadside against the Government.

Watchdog boss David Neal was removed after he warned that “high-risk” private jet flights were landing in the UK without proper checks. Mr Neal, appointed in 2021 but already due to leave after the Government blocked his reappointment, had called for a probe into whether checks were being carried out on private jets arriving in the UK.

He continues to be an outspoken critic of the department, saying he “paid the price” for voicing his concerns and that his conscience remains “absolutely clear.

Mr Neal, a former head of the Royal Military Police, had previously accused the Home Office of sitting on a tranche of his reports on issues relating to borders and security. After he was sacked, the department rushed out 13 of his reports on the same day. The move attracted criticism; it was trying to slip them out on the same day as damning findings from an inquiry into the murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens.

One report claimed that security at UK airports was neither efficient nor effective, with e-passport gates being left unmanned at times. Roving officers were distracted by duties that were not part of their jobs, such as dealing with passenger inquiries or managing queues of passengers, and even what he called the basic stuff was not being done well.

Other reports by Mr Neal accused the Home Office of being dragged down by a “culture of defensiveness”. They found that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s push to clear the legacy asylum backlog “at all costs” had led to a range of “perverse outcomes” for claimants.

Anyone who has ever been to an airport or observed the work of the Home Office knows that Mr Neal is correct. The Home Office, like many other parts of the civil service, urgently needs reform.

The Home Office is woefully understaffed, and the Border Force requires much more staff not just at our ports of entry but also involved in managing asylum seekers and quickly and efficiently removing failed applicants from the UK. However, extra staffing, funds, and dedicated facilities such as secure accommodation processing centres are not the only solutions to the Home Office’s woes.

There need to be improvements in the work culture at the home office, with the average processing time for an asylum seeker to get an initial decision from the home office now being 20 months. This is far too long, and even though the number of caseworkers has increased, the number of cases processed per week continues to decline. This is unacceptable, and the performance needs to be boosted.

The Home Office seems to be part of a malaise affecting the whole civil service. Still, it appears that none of the mainstream political parties have the will to take on the civil service Mandarins and the powerful Unions holding back change.

Scroll to Top