Passport Office accused of profiteering
The Passport Office has been accused of putting profits ahead of peoples' hardship after it was revealed that it's making a surplus of nearly £15 on every passport it issues.
Last summer, thousands of families were forced to cancel holidays or pay extra for fast-track passport applications as the agency failed to deal with high demand. At one point, the backlog reached 550,000.
Soon after, the home secretary announced that the Passport Office would lose its status as an executive agency of the Home Office and would report directly to ministers.
But, the Passport Office's annual report and accounts now reveal, the agency clocked up an astonishing £42 million in profits between April and September while the chaos was going on.
This was boosted by the fact that many people upgraded to the £128 premium four-hour service - making an extra £55.50 profit each for the Treasury.
According to the Daily Mail, Labour's immigration spokesman David Hanson is calling for confirmation that none of the Passport Office's senior management received a bonus during that six months.
These accounts show that the Government was putting profits before people's hardship.
"It is staggering that whilst thousands of families missed their holidays last year because Theresa May couldn't get them their passports on time, the Passport Office made such a vast profit."
The news increases the pressure on the Passport Office to cut the price of passports, which now cost £72.50.
Last September, a report from the home affairs committee revealed that the Passport Office had built up a £124 million surplus over the previous two years, despite dishing out record overtime payments to staff and paying £674,000 in bonuses.
It's anyone's guess how things will pan out this summer.
"HM Passport Office expects passport demand to continue to increase over the next year: 6.7 million domestic and overseas applications are forecast to be received in 2015," reads the annual report.
"In order to manage this continued increase in demand and restore public confidence in the quality of services offered, HM Passport Office has reviewed its forecasting, workforce planning and contingency arrangements in readiness for 2015."
It says the agency has introduced a new forecasting model and will adjust staffing accordingly, as well as training more staff to work across different areas. It's taken on 1,000 new workers already.
It's also promised to improve communication with customers, and says it's now easier for people to check the status of their application online.
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