If you don’t have a passport at all, this problem is something you would probably never have noticed, apart from the reports in the press. If, however, you have recently had reason to apply for a new passport, you have probably been caught up in the extremely ill-advised measures taken by the government this year.
Ignoring completely the old maxim “If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it!”, the government, in its infinite (lack of) wisdom, decided to close 7 overseas centres run by the Foreign Office, and have all the processing done by the Home Office in the UK. This placed an extra burden of some 350,000 applications annually on the Home Office system, which was immediately swamped.
To add insult to injury, many of the current problems can be traced back to job cuts at the Passport Office and the use of private companies to undertake work that used to be done in-house, according to Mike Jones from the Public and Commercial Services Union.
And all this to save a paltry £20m!
How many people have had their lives disrupted as a result?
“Downing Street confirmed that hundreds of extra staff had been deployed to deal with the backlog and offices would open seven days a week from 7am until midnight, after leaked photographs showed boxes of applications piling up in temporary storage in the Liverpool office.”
In spite of the extra costs involved, the Passport business will remain profitable, (£70 million in the last financial year), as the charges border on the extortionate – especially when compared to those of other countries. The “Fast track” surcharge of £55 is more than enough to pay for the total cost of the passport.
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“Hundreds of thousands of expat Britons who need to renew their passports will be given automatic one year extensions to alleviate the escalating crisis.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, also announced that children of overseas Britons who need passports will be issued with “emergency travel documents” for travel to the UK.
She added that Mrs May had considered offering extensions to UK residents but concluded it would be too costly and too complicated.
Holidaymakers who had a “urgent need to travel” would have their applications speeded up free of charge, she said.”
The news effectively confirms that the Home Office failed prepare properly for the increased burden of processing expat passports.
“The changes were greeted with derision by Labour. Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home secretary, said: “This is now a sorry shambles from a sorry department. Government incompetence means people are at risk of missing their holidays, their honeymoons, their business trips.”