Britons face more holiday chaos as Tory cuts could see 8,000 fewer passports processed every day

Government staffing cuts could lead to a significant reduction in the number of passports being processed, jeopardising Britons’ holiday plans, Labour has said.

© Simon Calder DaisyUKPassportBlack.JPG

The opposition party’s warning comes as complaints mount about the current passport-processing backlog.

Given the passport crisis, Labour said it would be “damaging” for the Conservatives to reduce the number of staff working at the Passport Office.

This follows the government’s announcement earlier this month that it wanted to reduce the number of jobs in the civil service by up to 91,000 over the next three years. In preparation for these cuts, Downing Street has reportedly asked every government department to draw up plans to lower staffing by between 20 and 40 per cent.

New Labour analysis suggests that 8,000 fewer passport applications would be completed each day if civil service jobs were slashed by 20 per cent. However the Passport Office said it “didn’t recognise” these numbers.

The prediction was based on the 43,478 passports that were processed daily in March 2022 by 4,000 workers. With 800 fewer staff, Labour estimates that the Passport Office would only be able to issue 34,782 passports a day, a reduction of almost 8,700.

Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, hit out at the “damaging cuts”, which she said would cause “huge delays” for people trying to access the service.

“It is truly unfair that people are losing thousands of pounds because of Priti Patel’s Home Office and their failure to plan ahead,” she said. “They ignored warnings, and it is families across the country missing out on hard-earned holidays who are paying the price,” Ms Rayner added.

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Meanwhile, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Home Office “shouldn’t make it worse in the middle of a passport crisis”.

“We need proper long-term service planning instead. Priti Patel’s Home Office is already effectively in special measures. They need to get a grip,” she said.

Responding to Labour’s analysis, a spokesperson for HM Passport Office said: “We do not recognise these claims – our staff continue to process 250,000 passport applications each week, and across March and April we completed the processing of nearly 2 million passport applications.

“We have increased staff numbers by 500 since April 2021, and are in the process of recruiting another 700.”

British holidaymakers are currently waiting as long as 10 weeks to receive their new passports, with the backlog standing at around 500,000 applications, according to Labour.

However, Boris Johnson claimed in the House of Commons that “everyone is getting their passport within four to six weeks”.

The number of passports in circulation fell sharply in the first two years of the pandemic, tumbling by 2.6 million from the end of 2019 to the end of 2021.

Delays in passport processing could lead to £1.1bn in cancelled trips this summer, according to recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research. The warning about summer holiday chaos comes as half-term travel plans were thrown into disarray this week when airlines including TUI and easyJet cancelled flights.

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