Passport Office 'backlogs': Families being 'held to ransom' by fees for fast-tracked applications

MPs accuse Home Secretary of complacency over extra payments of £55.50

Home Secretary Theresa May has been accused of “taking her eye of the ball” after complaints that people are now paying £55.50 extra to have their passport applications fast-tracked because of an alleged backlog in the processing system.

With the standard fee for processing a passport costing £72.50, some families have claimed they are being effectively “held to ransom” because they have been told to pay an extra £55.50 to get their passports in time to go on holiday.

Audrey Strong, 67, from Timsbury, near Bath, told the Daily Mail that her 94-year-old mother paid the levy to be able to go on a cruise. She added: "They’re holding people to ransom. It’s disgusting – I don’t think she should have to pay all that money, but she did it because she would have lost her holiday otherwise."

Union representatives have claimed the problem has been caused by job cuts over the past five years leading to a lack of available staff, and MPs in the Commons accused Mrs May of complacency.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said MPs from all parties had been contacted by worried constituents waiting to hear news about their applications.

Accusing Mrs May of “taking her eye off the ball”, she said people were paying extra to fast-track their applications because they were “in a state of panic” about whether they would be able to go on foreign holidays or business trips.

But Mrs May said that despite the “unprecedented” rush in new applications and renewals in the first half of the year, 97 per cent of “straightforward” applications had been dealt with within three weeks and 99 per cent within four weeks in line with the agency's service standards.

She insisted it was “not true to say that the number of staff at the Passport Office has gone down” because “the number of staff at the Passport Office has gone up.”

She added: “We are continuing to look to see if there are further contingency measures that need to be put into place should we see the significant increase in applications we've seen in the first few months of this year continue.”

Home Office officials insisted there was no backlog but admitted that 300,000 more applications had been received in the first five months of 2014 than in the same period last year.  They added that staff were working seven days a week to deal with passport applications .

But David Hanson, Labour’s immigration spokesman, said: ‘It is clear Theresa May is now burying her head in the sand and ignoring the overwhelming evidence of families across the country suffering delays, stress and heartache over their summer holidays and trips abroad.

“Each day that passes is throwing up more passport headaches.”

“People across the country need to know when the Government first knew about this crisis, how many people are impacted and what they’re doing to solve it.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?