THOUSANDS of holidaymakers face having their summer family holiday plans ruined or disrupted because of a major backlog at the UK’s passports office.
Simple renewals - which usually take three weeks - are taking double that time, and new applications - for example for young children travelling for the first time - are taking much longer than the standard six weeks.
Many families have resorted to asking their MPs to intervene, with some only able to get their passport a few hours before flying.
Among those affected was Clair Atkin, from Leeds, who waited almost two months for her two year old daughter Larna’s passport. It was only after intervention from her MP Rachel Reeves - and a mad dash to the Durham passport office - that she was able to get the document just 12 hours before flying.
“It’s absolutely chaotic,” Miss Atkin said. “Whoever you call tells you something different. I would urge other people who need to apply to do it now.”
MPs have told the YP there are dealing with unprecedented numbers of complaints from constituents - and they are now raising the matter in Parliament.
And today, a union has also warned of industrial action over the passport backlog - which it blames on job cuts.
The Public and Commercial Services Union said the slashing of 300 jobs and the closure of 20 offices over the past five years had led to a “crisis”. Staff were trying to deal with a backlog of almost half a million cases, the PCS said.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The passport office is failing holidaymakers because of a political decision to cut staff and close local offices.
“While the economy is showing signs of recovery for some, the damage being done by the Government’s spending cuts is evident to anyone trying to get a passport at the moment and we are not prepared to stand by and allow this to happen.”
Leeds MPs George Mudie, Hilary Benn and Rachel Reeves have told the YP they are spending much of every day dealing with emergency passport requests and arranging last minute appointments for upgraded same day passports where possible. Mr Mudie said some people are having to shell out £55 extra to upgrade their passport application - and this should be refunded. However many more may simply have to cancel holidays or leave family members behind.
Rachel Reeves, Leeds West MP, said: “I am outraged at the poor level of service.
“People have contacted me in desperation after significant delays in their applications, with just a few days to go before travel.
“In every case my constituents were repeatedly promised return calls from passport offices, which they never received and were given conflicting information.”
A spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Passport Office denied there was a backlog, but admitted: “We have been experiencing an early summer peak in demand for passports, which seems to be in part due to the improving economy and a rise in holiday bookings. We have brought in extra staff 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.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “If there are measures that can be taken to improve, then of course we will look at it.”