Immigration watchdog's term extended again, six months into recruitment for successor

Home secretary Priti Patel says move will "prevent a gap" in scrutiny of her department's work
Photo: Clara Molden/PA Archive/PA Images

The independent immigration watchdog's term in office has been extended for the second time this year, the Home Office has said  – six months after recruitment for his successor opened.

David Bolt was initially due to step down as independent chief inspector of borders and immigration in May, five years after he took up the post. However, in April, the Home Office said his term had been extended to October and that it had not yet begun recruiting his successor, a process that began the following month.

Home secretary Priti Patel last week said Bolt had once again agreed to extend his term in office until a new inspector could be appointed “to prevent a gap in the important scrutiny of the Home Office’s work”.

CSW asked the Home Office whether the recruitment exercise that launched in May had failed to turn up qualified candidates or if there was another reason an appointment had yet to be made.

A spokesperson said the department's press release about the extension to Bolt's term in office should answer the question. The release says only that a recruitment process for the new independent inspector has yet to be completed. 

No information was given on why a candidate had yet to be appointed to the £130,000-a-year job. Final interviews for the next chief inspector, who will scrutinise the work of the Home Office for three years, were due to take place in August.

The press release said only that the extension has been made “in line with the governance code on public appointments, which allows ministers to extend the terms of public appointees”.

While the code can be used to extend appointments while recruitment processes take place, the wording of the code refers to appointments being extended as an alternative to appointing a new person to the role.

In fact, Bolt’s initial two-year term as ICIBI was extended to five years under the same rules. In May 2016, then-home secretary Theresa May announced the extension, saying it would enable him to take a longer-term strategic view and to “continue his work with more authority, facilitating the continuing improvement of the work of the inspectorate”.

Work that Bolt has published over the last few months makes clear that he did not expect to stay in his post beyond October. Setting out his plans for 2010-21 in April, he said it would fall to his successor to complete some of the inspections he planned to begin in the year.

In a statement, home secretary Priti Patel said: “I want to thank David for his vital and exemplary work which constructively challenges the department’s immigration functions so that they are as effective as they can be.

“I’m glad David has agreed to extend his term until a new chief inspector can be appointed, to prevent a gap in the important scrutiny of the Home Office’s work.”

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