Staff offered more shifts in passport crisis

STAFF at Newport’s passport office have been offered extra shifts with double pay to deal with a backlog of applications, a trade union official has said.

And the Public and Commercial Services Union’s industrial officer Darren Williams said the office has recently started to open seven days a week to deal with more applications made for the summer holiday rush.

Mr Williams said: “They’re finding it difficult to get extra people in and a lot more senior officers are working. They haven’t had as much take up as they were hoping for.

“They’re really trying to have a big push to get the work done on overtime. It is only in the last few weeks that they have been opening on Sundays.

“Obviously the people who are coming in are quite anxious to get their things together.”

The office deals with premium and fast track passport services. It once employed about 300 staff but reopened last year with half that number following an Argus-backed campaign to save the site in the city.

With the premium service, applicants can receive their passport within four hours of asking for it but must collect it from the centre. A fast track service ensures passports are delivered to applicants within a week of them being accepted.

The backlog across the UK concerns about 465,000 passport renewals and first-time requests and The Passport Office is sending out about 150,000 of them every week.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced on Wednesday that charges for urgent renewals would be scrapped to clear the applications backlog but Labour’s Yvette Cooper said the saga was “a sorry shambles”.

And Gwent MPs have lined up to blast the Home Office. On Thursday, Newport East MP Jessica Morden said staff and unions’ warnings about a decline in services with the reduction in services in the city’s office had been proved right.

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