Going anywhere nice this year? Planning some time in the sun? Remember how you promised yourself a brilliant break after all the misery and containment of lockdown? It was going to be about seizing the moment, grabbing life, recalibrating what was important. Out, out, out into the great blue yonder.
It’s getting tricky, though. The fears around the cost of living are circling and griping. What is cheaper –
heating a home or jumping on a flight to the Algarve and contributing to global warming?
Even if a holiday has been booked, the passport delay is making things tense for many families. HM
Passport Office is warning of delays of 10 weeks to issue new documents. A double whammy of many people applying for what was put off during lockdown and new, tighter time period regulations post-Brexit have contributed. The passport authorities say last month they processed one million applications. Last year it was seven million in total.
Boris Johnson’s response is a threat, reportedly, to “privatise the arse” out the passport service. In tandem, some talk show hosts are getting very red faced, insisting that the delay is because layabout passport workers won’t get back to the office. The message is simple – it’s their fault.
Hold your horses, say the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the union representing the passport workers, this is a recruitment issue. They estimate 1,700 new full-time, fully trained staff are needed, but to date only 300 positions have been filled. As an aside on the working from home issue, in January the passport office celebrated a civil service award for use of AI. Their gong was for best use of data and technology. It meant, they said, 4.5 million people got passports because of better technology, whether office or home-based for workers. While it doesn’t help with delays, it does make a mockery of the office/home issue being to blame.
It’s an old play for some governments to insist publicly owned bodies can’t do the job of private companies. It usually follows a period of underinvestment (perhaps in recruitment) that allows the government to insist the public body isn’t fit for purpose.