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Spot-checks 'showing progress'
Spot-checks on three of the UK's immigration and border services have revealed the Home Office is making improvements, the independent chief inspector has said.
John Vine, independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, visited offices in Manchester, Croydon and Loughborough to check if the sites were following recommendations put forward after previous inspections.
Mr Vine praised staff for their "professional, enthusiastic and committed" approach to making improvements and concluded positive progress was being made at all three.
But despite the warm words Mr Vine noted he was "extremely concerned" the now-defunct UK Border Agency (UKBA) had provided him with a report ahead of his visit to the Croydon Public Enquiry Office, which recorded a number of actions had been completed when this was not the case.
The evaluation provided to Mr Vine also informed ministers and the UKBA whether or not the inspector's recommendations had been implemented to a satisfactory standard. The Croydon office considers straight-forward applications from people looking to extend their stay in the UK or to settle permanently. It deals with up to 300 customers a day and is the largest in the country.
Mr Vine's report also said there was anecdotal evidence to suggest some bogus appointments at the Croydon office were made using UKBA's online system, which were then "potentially sold on by unscrupulous representatives or individuals".
Approximately 30% of appointments were no-shows which led to genuine customers failing to get an appointment in a reasonable timescale or being forced to turn to "unscrupulous representatives" to get appointments, Mr Vine added.
He did say steps are being taken to combat abuse of the website. And overall the chief inspector concluded he expects the Croydon office to become a "beacon of good practice" in 2013.
Mr Vine also visited the Command and Control Unit in Manchester and the East Midlands Reporting Centre in Loughborough. The spot-checks took place between January and May. He said: "The Home Office is ultimately responsible for implementing my recommendations and is accountable to the Home Secretary, ministers, Parliament and the public for improvements to service delivery.
"These spot-check visits are an efficient and valuable accompaniment to my formal inspection programme. They allow me to see for myself if improvements have been made."