Passport Office crisis worsens - backlog soars by 25,000

But Passport Office set for £50m jackpot

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Passport Office boss Paul Pugh disclosed the backlog is now more than half a million - around 508,000 - an increase of 25,000 since last month

Thousands of holidays may have to be abandoned because of the UK's passport crisis. Yesterday Passport Office boss Paul Pugh disclosed the backlog is now more than half a million - around 508,000 - an increase of 25,000 since last month.

Why is the holiday backlog so bad? And what can you do about it if you're affected?

Emergency measures

In their defence, the Passport Office (HMPO) claims it's attempting to meet the highest demand for passports in 12 years and is shelling out large amounts on staff overtime to deal with the demand.

However the current backlog is estimated to be 20,000 higher compared to the start of June when Home Secretary Theresa May announced a roster of measures to deal with the pressure.

Why is demand on the up? Bluntly, the Passport Office appear clueless. "Clearly our forecast intake for the year has been substantially exceeded during this period," Paul Pugh told the Commons home affairs select committee yesterday.

"We don't fully understand why that is. We believe it to be more to do with the seasonality of demand rather than the total of demand."

Hotline frustration

The Passport Office isn't known for its communication flair. Last month Keith Vaz, the Commons' home affairs select committee chair, said MPs had struggled to get through to HMPO on its own hotline.

Vaz claims he had to text Home Secretary Theresa May to get HMPO to respond to complaints from a constituent.

Ironically, the Passport Office is likely to see a £50m surplus given the demand surge. The Guardian claims this could see the £72.50 adult renewal fee cut.

What to do if you're affected?

If you're in the UK now and are travelling imminently your application should be upgraded for free. But you must be booked to travel within the next seven days and your application must have been with the Passport Office for longer three weeks - through no fault of your own.

Home Secretary Theresa May has passed measures that include giving UK citizens living abroad an automatic one-year extension to their passports.

"This will be done," says the Passport Office, "by consular staff in the country where they apply and appointments can be made from Monday 16 June. No additional fees will be charged and the security of the passport will not be affected."

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