Leeds holidaymakers in limbo over passport office ‘crisis’

People are facing an anxious wait for their passport
People are facing an anxious wait for their passport
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SCORES of Leeds holidaymakers face having their summer family holiday plans ruined or disrupted because of a major backlog at the UK’s passports office.

Simple renewals and child passports - which usually take three weeks - are taking at least double that time, and new applications are taking much longer than the standard six weeks.

Many desperate families have resorted to asking their local MPs to intervene, with some only able to get their passport mere hours before flying - and others having to make the difficult decision to leave some family members behind.

Among those affected was Clare Atkin, 38, from Armley, 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 TWELVE hours before flying to Majorca.

“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.”

Others have not been so lucky. YEP online reader Joanna Haran said: “My children were due to fly May 30. Applications sent via check and send at the post office. The passports came [a few days later]. The kids didn’t get holiday.”

Leeds MPs George Mudie, Hilary Benn and Rachel Reeves have told the YEP 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 to premium - and this should be refunded.

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.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of 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.

“The passport office is failing holidaymakers because of a political decision to cut staff and close local offices,” Mr Serwotka said.

A spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Passport Office said: “We have been experiencing an early summer peak in demand for passports.

“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.

“There is no backlog. We have issued over one million passports to customers in the UK since April and the vast majority have been, and continue to be, processed within our target turnaround times.

“We would remind people of our existing advice to customers: allow plenty of time when applying for a new or renewed passport, and do not book travel until you have received your passport.”

PA library file dated 09/04/2003 of a man smoking a cigarette. A leading medical journal, Friday December 5, 2003, called for an outright ban on smoking and cigarettes. The Lancet editorial pointed out that 80% of people in the UK were non-smokers. They had "the right to freedom from exposure to proven carcinogens," said the journal. See PA story SCIENCE Smoking. PA Photo.

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