Passport Office denies backlog caused by working from home

The Passport Office is among the government departments whose name was checked by Boris Johnson as he indicated he wanted to crack down on civil servants working from home.

But HM Passport Office (HMPO) said working from home had “no impact” on its ability to process applications. The 10-week wait time, he said, is not due to a “backlog” caused by changes made during the coronavirus pandemic, a department spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement was released in April in response to press reports, but this week Boris Johnson echoed attacks from some media outlets. Mr Johnson promised he would not tolerate what he called a “post-Covid manana culture” using “any necessary steps”.

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He said: ‘We cannot have costly delays in the delivery of passports and driving licenses which see families stranded and unable to go on holiday, lorry drivers unable to transport goods in this country of way that is so integral to the economy, we need and we will fix it.

The Passport Office denies there are ‘delays’, saying the now standard 10-week wait time was put in place in April 2021 due to high demand for passports ahead of relaxed Covid restrictions -19. Demand also increased because people postponed renewal during the early lockdowns of 2020, the statement said.

HM Passports says it processed over a million passports in March. Working from home does not limit productivity, he says, and 500 employees have been hired since April 2021.

“Our dedicated staff are working tirelessly to meet this unprecedented demand. Working from home has no impact on the HMPO’s ability to process passport applications,” the statement added.

In the Commons, Mr Johnson appeared to be mistaken in saying the Government ‘will not tackle post-Covid manana culture’, before adding: ‘We will take whatever action is necessary to meet the needs of the British people , because the British people are not ready to wait and we share their impatience.

In a copy of the speech later released by Downing Street, he said Mr Johnson intended to say: ‘This government will not tolerate a post-Covid culture of manana.’

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