Passport office strike likely to cause even longer delays - and what you can do about it.
Passport workers have gone on strike today over continued disputes over staff shortages and pay issues. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have been faced with unprecedented levels of passport applications this year (the highest demand seen in 12 years), whilst austerity measures have significantly decreased the available workforce to process these.
But the backlog in passports being issued appears not to have put off applicants. The increase in both delays and number of applications being made is only exacerbating the current situation. Summer holidaymakers are looking to be heavily affected as, prior to today's (July 28) strike, passports that should have been issued within three weeks were taking up to two months.
A series of reports from the first half of this year, stemming from a social media post going viral in June in which a Passport Office worker had photographed the scale of delays in a Liverpool office, has highlighted PCS staff anger at under-staffing.
Last month, the Home Office redeployed hundreds of staff in hopes of depleting the backlog of 30,000 applications, with an estimated 360,000 going through the system. To date however, there has not been a visible change in the number of passports being cleared.
Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh says he expects an increase of 10,000 per week 'over the summer' on the 170,000 he claims are currently being issued each week.
''The staffing crisis in the Passport Office has been obvious for everyone to see and it shouldn't have taken a committee of MPs to force the chief executive to meet us to discuss it,'' said Mark Serwotka, PCS's general secretary.
Speculation on how so many applications for passports have managed to stagnate within the system has revolved around not only a lack of sufficient numbers of staff, but additional, exacerbating factors, including reports of Post Office staff giving customers false information about delays.
The continued number of applications being made, despite the very public awareness of the backlog, could at least in part be linked to misinformed or inadequately trained staff at local Post Offices, where customers are repeatedly being reassured not to worry about delays and that they will only have to wait four to five weeks for passports to be returned. The truth is closer to six or seven weeks has meant further complaints and increased frustration.
What can you do to avoid passport application delays?
We strongly advise those who are looking to travel in the next few weeks and months to not submit your application via a Post Office.
Instead, those who are seeking to renew or replace their passports should only use the urgent appointment service, thereby avoiding adding to the backlog and in hopes that more staff will be added to this particular department to help clear the backlog.
Need more information?
Talk to the Passport Office team
Lines open 9am-5:30pm
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