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.”

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Upper KS2 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Upper KS2 Primary Teacher...

KS1 Float Teacher

£90 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay : Randstad Education Southampton: ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Trainee Recruitmen...

KS1 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: KS1 Primary Teacher in Br...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor