People employed to deal with new border checks in Hull which were subsequently shelved by the government have been made redundant, it has been revealed.
The Hull and Goole Port Health Authority had initially planned to establish a team of 20 support officers at its Hessle Road office to carry out the anticipated increased workloads associated with required new checks on food imports following the UK’s departure from the European Union. They formed part of a wider recruitment drive by the authority as it prepared for the post-Brexit changes.
The support posts were first advertised last summer with a salary of between £22,080 to £25,481 a year. At the time, documentary checks on EU food imports were due to start in October 2021 while physical checks on products arriving in Hull were scheduled to start in January this year at a new purpose-built £15m Border Control Post at King George Dock in Hull.
However, the government subsequently pushed the timetable back for a third time before announcing in April that it was delaying full import checks again until the end of next year when it pledged to introduce a new system of controls. Speaking at the time, minister of Brexit opportunites Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed the move was needed because of the impact on rising energy costs and supply chain disruption caused by Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a new report, chief port health inspector Laurence Dettman said the authority had been left with no choice but to make redundancies because government funding provided to recruit the new staff had also expired at the end of July. It was originally anticipated new charges levied as part of the new inspections would cover the long-term cost of employing extra staff.
Mr Dettman said: “The reality of this position created a situation where the authority could not sustain the costs indefinitely and with no financial contingency available within the authority’s annual budget. Unfortunately, it was therefore decided, with the valued assistance of our human resources manager, to proceed with a redundancy process for the port health support officers recruited in 2021.
“Following the necessary consultation and notice periods, I am pleased to report that some have gained new jobs elsewhere and others have been redeployed to posts within Hull City Council. Having invested much time and effort in building an effective team within a very short timescale to meet previous government demands, such a wasteful and regrettable outcome was outside of our control.”
Mr Dettman said a provisional contract with an agency to supply several official veterinarians to carry out checks on livestock arriving at the port had also been cancelled amicably and without any costs to the authority. Two additional port health inspectors recruited last year and funded by the government have also left the authority for jobs elsewhere.
He said “essential clarity” was now needed on the new proposed border operating model after the series of frustrating government delays over the issue since Brexit. While part of the EU, there was no requirement for any inspection regime because of its frictionless cross-border trading system.
He added: “The development of the 2023 Target Operating Model for the GB border aims to set out a new approach to border import controls that will apply equally to goods from the EU and goods from the rest of the world. It is acknowledged that such a regime needs to be based on a proper assessment of risk, with a proportionate, risk-based technologically-advanced approach to controls. It is seen as essential that controls are designed to reduce burdens and lower cost for traders while protecting the security and biosecurity of the UK.
“Essential clarity on the future role of port health authorities and necessary resources for the new UK border regime must now be provided in a timely manner by the government, avoiding the many mistakes of the past. Somewhat warily, port health authorities are continuing to liaise with various government departments as we rapidly progress towards the new imports regime in late 2023.”