Home Office spent thousands of pounds sending 48 staff to the CRYSTAL MAZE experience on a ‘teambuilding’ outing as the Windrush scandal raged
- EXCLUSIVE: Home Office sent 48 staff on ‘teambuilding’ session at Crystal Maze
- The prime attraction in central London is based on cult Channel 4 programme
- Tickets alone were nearly £2,700 and could have been extra food and travel cost
- Jaunt came as the department was condemned for deporting Windrush migrants
- Staff have been reminded taxpayer money should be spent ‘carefully and wisely’
The Home Office spent thousands of pounds sending 48 officials to the Crystal Maze experience as the Windrush row raged, it can be revealed today.
Details of the extraordinary jaunt to the prime London attraction have been released to MailOnline under Freedom of Information rules.
The department said the taxpayer-funded excursion in May last year was necessary for the staff to get away from the ‘distractions’ of the office.
It claimed the officials needed to ‘rebuild cohesion’ after ‘significant recent restructuring and recruitment’, and said care had been taken to ‘minimise costs’.
But critics condemned the session – booked while Amber Rudd was in charge and the department was facing allegations of wrongly deporting Windrush generation migrants – as ‘wasteful nonsense’.
Details of the extraordinary jaunt to the prime London attraction – which culminates in teams trying to collect tokens in the Crystal Dome (pictured) – have been released to MailOnline under Freedom of Information rules
The excursion was booked shortly before Amber Rudd (pictured left in Downing Street last month) was forced to resign as Home Secretary amid fallout from the Windrush scandal. Pictured right is one of the receipts disclosed to MailOnline
The Crystal Maze experience in London is based on the cult Channel 4 show, which originally starred Richard O’Brien and has now been revived presented by comedian Richard Ayaode.
Teams compete to collect crystals by completing a series of physical and mental challenges against the clock in Industrial, Futuristic, Medieval and Aztec Zones.
They then have to pick up as many tokens as possible in the Crystal Dome, getting more or less time depending on how successful they have been in the course.
The website bills the 75-minute London experience as the ‘ultimate team challenge’ and a ‘properly interactive, frenetic and very silly test of your mental and physical abilities’.
The site adds: ‘Most of all, it’s So Much Fun!’
The teambuilding exercise only emerged in entries buried on the Home Office’s transparency log.
In response to an FOI request, the department admitted that the session was booked on April 11, and happened on May 8 – as the Windrush scandal cranked into top gear.
The 48 tickets for the Crystal Maze cost £2,639.52. The Home Office refused to say whether there had been extra costs for travel and food for the staff – which could potentially have significantly increased the bill.
In April last year it was revealed that tens of thousands of migrants from the Commonwealth who had been in the UK for decades could have been targeted by the Home Office for deportation.
The same month the department admitted it had set up a new team to deal with Windrush cases, amid criticism that thousands of landing cards recording arrivals in the UK had been destroyed.
The Crystal Maze experience in London is based on the cult Channel 4 show, which originally starred Richard O’Brien and has now been revived presented by comedian Richard Ayaode (pictured)
Ms Rudd then resigned on April 29 after conceding she had inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Committee by saying there were no removals targets for illegal immigrants. She is now back in government as Work and Pensions Secretary.
The Home Office’s FOI response said: ‘This was a team building event for a team which had undergone significant recent restructuring and recruitment.
‘The Crystal Maze event afforded an opportunity to rebuild team cohesion in an environment away from distractions of the office.’
A Home Office spokeswoman added: ‘There is a small budget for team building and professional development and care is always taken to minimise costs, spending taxpayers’ money carefully.’
Sources denied that the team who went to the Crystal Maze had been involved in Windrush cases, and staff have been reminded that taxpayers’ money should be spent ‘carefully and wisely’.
It is understood current Home Secretary Priti Patel has made ‘very clear’ to officials that they are ‘not going to be spending money on things like this on her watch’.
James Roberts, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This is a truly puzzling waste of taxpayers’ cash.
‘Splashing public money on a costly day out at the Crystal Maze, when surely a simple team lunch could have sufficed, shows some bureaucrats have truly lost their way when it comes to cutting down on wasteful spending.
‘The new ministers at the Home Office need to crack down on this nonsense and make sure taxpayers’ money is spent more wisely in future.’
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