Peterborough passport office: Here's what to do to avoid holiday misery as PM blames delays on home working

Passport office staff at centre of row over renewal backlog

By Paul Grinnell
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 4:53 pm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has heaped more pressure on Passport Office staff in Peterborough battling to resolve a mammoth backlog of delayed renewal applications.

Mr Johnson has blamed a culture of working from home among civil servants for much of the delay, which is estimated to involve five million passport renewal applications nationally.

He has vowed to take “whatever steps are necessary” to prevent delays in public services and said a “post-Covid manana culture” was to blame for “expensive delays” in delivering passports to people.

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Peterborough Passport Office which is one of a number of UK centres at the heart of a row over a backlog of passport renewal applications that could cause some holiday makers to cancel their getaways.

He told MPs during the Queen’s Speech debate: “When times are tough and families are facing such pressures, we must also cut the cost of government and cut the burdens that government places on taxpayers and on citizens.

“We can’t have expensive delays in delivering passports that see families stranded and unable to go on holiday.

The Prime Minister has also not ruled out privatising the passport service, which has offices around the country as well as in Peterborough, after some holiday makers were forced to cancel their getaways because their passports were not renewed on time.

However Peterborough MP Paul Bristow has publicly praised the hard work of staff at Peterborough Passport Office for their efforts to ensure renewal applications were processed within the 10 weeks’ target time.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: “There is undoubtedly a sense of frustration at the length of time it is taking to process the passports.

"But we mustn’t forget that those working at the Passport Office in Peterborough and elsewhere in the country are working extremely hard."

Why are there passport renewal delays:

The deluge of renewal requests has been blamed on the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions, which triggered unprecedented demand to travel from people and post-Brexit travel rules that demand people to have at least three months validity remaining when travelling to EU member nations.

What does the Home Office say?

Home Office minister Kevin Foster has explained: "We saw a record output last month - over a million passports dealt with in just one month when normally we deal with seven million in the whole year.

"So the teams are working hard and many are working weekends as well to get through the applications that we are receiving.”

How can you avoid the renewal backlog?

But while politicians talk, there are a few actions that holiday makers can take for themselves in a bid to try and avoid the renewal delays.

And one Peterborough-based travel agency, Sunny Heart Travel, has urged holiday makers to act immediately to avoid any getaway heartbreak.

Steve Bentzen, chief executive, said: “We have had a number of calls on passport issues.

“So we are advising all of our summer holiday bookings to apply now for passport renewals.

“Our advice is to use the fast track service which has been effective to date, and we haven’t had to deal with any cancellations so far.”

Anyone with a British passport is urged to check as soon as possible the renewal date printed inside the passport.

You must renew your passport before you can travel if your passport has expired or if you do not have enough time left on it.

How much time you need on your passport depends on the country you’re visiting and you must check the entry requirements of the country to which you want to travel.

If you don't need a passport urgently, you're asked to apply online to use the standard service or you can also apply with a paper form from a post office but this costs an extra £9.50.

How to get a passport urgently?

You need to book a passport office appointment and pay online. You can book an appointment up to three weeks in advance.

If you need a passport to travel urgently for medical treatment or because a friend or family member is seriously ill or has died, then you will need to call the Passport Adviceline.

Don’t forget to check current Covid-19 travel advice before travelling.

Who can apply?

You can apply for a faster service if you need to renew or replace a passport, or get a first child passport.

There are two ways to apply for an urgent passport and as part of the application, you will need to attend an appointment at your nearest passport office.

Use the Online Premium service:

You get your new passport at your appointment. Appointments last up to 30 minutes.

You can use this service to renew an adult passport.

You can use this service to renew an adult passport. It costs £177 or £187 for a 50 page frequent traveller passport) but only if your passport was issued after December 31, 2001.

Use the One week Fast Track

Your new passport is delivered to your home within one week of your appointment. Someone might need to be in to sign for it. You can use this service to renew an adult or child passport, change your name on your passport, make changes to your personal details on your passport, replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport or apply for a first child passport

It costs £142 for an adult passport (or £152 for a 50 page frequent traveller passport) or £122 for a child passport (or £132 for a 50 page frequent traveller passport).

I cannot use the online service

In which case, you can book an appointment and pay over the phone if you cannot use a computer, a smart phone or the internet or you do not have a debit or credit card. You will need to call the Passport Adviceline to book and pay.

How do I find out more?

If you need more details then visit the UK Government website.