HOLIDAY makers have been inundating Bolton MPs with concerns over passport delays.
Bolton North East MP David Crausby has criticised the Passport Office for “huge delays” processing people’s applications, putting holiday plans at risk.
Applications are at a 12-year high, and in the first five months this year the office has had to deal with 3.28 million applications — an increase of 330,000 compared with the same period in 2013.
The centre has now employed extra staff, working seven days a week, to sift through the backlog, but Mr Crausby said the current situation is unacceptable.
Mr Crausby said: “I have had more complaints about the passports office in the last four weeks than I’ve had in the previous four years, it’s disgraceful.
“I’ve had constituents worried sick that they might miss their holidays.”
Among the residents affected is Stephen Kruup, who has waited more than five weeks for his first passport so he can travel to Spain.
The Tonge Moor resident was also baffled to receive a letter from the Passport Office inviting him to an interview — but when he rang to confirm, he says he was told the letter should never have been sent.
Mr Kruup, aged 44, said: “It’s absolutely pathetic. I was looking to go away with my mates in two weeks, it would be my first time going away.
“When I rang them they said the reference number on the letter doesn’t even exist.”
Breightmet midwife Nicola Ainsworth was travelling to Portugal for a holiday and was told there was “no chance” of getting her passport back within three weeks.
But after contacting Mr Crausby’s office, officials fast-tracked the application.
Ms Ainsworth, aged 35, said: “I felt awful, I felt sick I was so worried. I had to pay £61 to upgrade the application but otherwise I would have lost the holiday.
“I got my passport back two days before the holiday.”
Paul Pugh, chief executive of the Passport Office, said: “We recognise that striving to meet our customers’ expectations is vital even during busy periods, which is why we have more than 200 additional staff who have moved from back office roles to front line operations and 650 extra staff on our customer helpline.
“We are operating seven days a week, with our couriers delivering passports within 24 hours of being produced.”