BRITONS planning overseas holidays face chaos this summer due to a backlog of almost half a million passport applications caused by government cuts.
The alarm was raised yesterday by public-sector union PCS, which is balloting passport office staff on strike action along with 250,000 other members affected by the coalition’s butchery of public services.
HM Passport Office has sacked more than 300 passport staff — 10 per cent of the workforce — and shut 22 offices nationwide. At least one office has seen the number of staff halved.
“The passport office is failing holidaymakers because of a political decision to cut staff and close local offices,” said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.
There are major passport offices in London, Liverpool, Belfast, Durham, Glasgow and Newport.
Among those sacked are 25 per cent of the staff who work on fraud prevention and investigation.
North Ayrshire and Arran Labour MP Katy Clark has reported a “surge” in the number of constituents turning up at her surgeries to report that “severe delays” in getting passports were disrupting travel plans.
“The delays and backlogs are the product of significant cuts and reductions to the Passport Office,” she said.
PCS has written to Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh saying the applications backlog is at “crisis” level and laying the blame squarely on “major job cuts and office closures during the past five years,” as well as “increasing use of private companies.”
Mr Serwotka said: “While the economy is showing signs of recovery for some, the damage being done by the government’s spending cuts is evident to anyone trying to get a passport at the moment and we are not prepared to stand by and allow this to happen.”
Along with other unions representing public sector workers, PCS is balloting its members with the aim of staging a united one-day strike in July.