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Passport delay? Tourism minister promotes ‘staycation’
Jun 20th, 2014 by elisa

Tourism minister Helen Grant has been criticised for telling Brits affected by the passport processing delays that there’s a lot to be said for the ‘staycation’.

The Maidstone MP told House magazine that she was confident people will get their passports on time, but if they don’t want to go away “we have some fantastic places to visit and holiday not that far from here”.

She then went on to promote sporting events in the UK this year, including the Tour de France Grand Depart, the golf, Commonwealth Games, and the “football that we can watch on the TV”.

Her comments have been defended by her Tory colleagues, saying that as tourism minister, she is right to champion the domestic tourism market, but claim that she was in no way linking it to the passport backlog.

Her words, however, have angered consumer groups and the Public and Commercial Services Union, particularly as she is reportedly planning a holiday abroad in Spain later this year.

Richard Simcox, spokesman for the union commented: “It is incredibly unhelpful while people are desperately trying to get hold of their passports for ministers to be making this sort of glib remark.

“They should be focusing their efforts on sorting out the problem in the Passport Office. It is all very well for her to go off to Spain while suggesting people who can’t get hold of a passport should stay at home.”

Last week we posted advice for anyone urgently waiting for their passports.

Passport processing advice
Jun 11th, 2014 by elisa

Urgent contingency plans have been put in place at the Passport Office to cope with the huge demand in passport applications. 

It has recruited extra staff to operate telephone helplines with extended opening hours from 07:00 to 22:00 weekdays and from 08:00 to 18:00 at weekends. Back office staff have been redeployed to help clear the reported backlog.

Travellers facing an anxious wait for their passports and are due to travel in the next few days are advised to contact the Passport Office directly on 0300 222 00 00. Anyone who applied for a passport by post or the Check & Send service may be able to upgrade to a Premium service.

Standard adult passports cost £72.50 to renew or £81.25 if you use the Post Office’s Passport Check and Send service. Child passports cost £46 or £54.75 respectively.

The premium service costs £128 and means passports can be collected within four hours of being approved. The fast-track service costs £103 with the passport returned within a week of the application being approved.

Passport chief executive Paul Pugh denied a backlog, claiming that 97% of passport renewals and child passports are being processed within the three week turnaround.

“Staff were brought in immediately to respond to the extra demand; we are operating seven days a week and our couriers are delivering passports within 24 hours of being produced.

“We have issued almost three million passports for UK customers in 2014, including over one million issued in the eight weeks since the start of April,” he said.

Mike Jones, of the PCS union, told the BBC: “Thousands of people complain that it has taken more than two months for them to get passports. That clearly is a backlog.”

 

Passport delays threaten summer travel
Jun 9th, 2014 by elisa

Thousands of holidaymakers could miss out on their summer holidays because delays at the Passport Office mean they won’t receive their passports on time. 

The Telegraph reports that some new applications are taking as much as two months to process, leading to fears that the backlog could worsen as the holiday season approaches.

According to some estimates, the backlog has already reached half a million and staff from other departments have now been drafted in to help cope with demand. Unions claim that staff are being forced to “paper over the cracks” by working overtime, and they may be forced to take industrial action unless urgent measures are taken to improve the situation.

Labour’s shadow immigration minister, David Hanson, said the party’s MPs have been “inundated” with complaints from constituents struggling to get their passports in time for holidays, despite applying three weeks in advance as recommended. Mr Hanson said 75 Labour MPs had reported more than 370 complaints, the majority concerning the office in Durham, which processes passport applications for children and people who have changed their names.

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union said staff are frustrated that they’re unable to provide the level of service that the public expects from the passport office.

The Passport Office denies the extent of the backlog, claiming 97% of straightforward renewals and child applications are being processed in the three week turnaround. It puts the “exceptional early summer demand” down to the improving economy and a rise in holiday bookings.

The guidance on turnaround times are three weeks for straightforward renewals and child passports and six weeks for new adult passports.

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