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Delays on UK passports, driving licences and tax rebates as civl servants continue to work from home

Members of the public trying to return to a version of normality after the Covid pandemic face weeks waiting for crucial documents as civil servants continue working from home. 

The passport office has warned renewing papers could take as long as ten weeks if the three million people who failed to apply last year submit orders.

But the problem is the same across the spectrum of services all providing key documentation.

It incudes delays of up to six months on a tax rebate, up to ten weeks for a paper driving licence application.

And the situation for ordering copies of birth, marriage or death certificates appears even more dire with the government’s General Register Office for England and Wales unable to give dates on when they will be sent out.

It comes as civil servants have been told there is no pressure to come back into the office – despite the Government telling everyone else they should begin returning. 

A plan has also been suggested for the majority of Whitehall staff that they may only ever have to come in a maximum of two days a week.

If that proves true questions are bound to be asked over whether some services will ever be able to return to pre-pandemic efficiency again.

MailOnline took a look at some the services being hit: 

Driving licences  

The DVLA say paper applications will take ten weeks due to reduced staff working in the office

The DVLA, which is based in Swansea, says paper applications for licences are currently taking up to ten weeks to process.

It has firmly laid the wait at the door of a number of union strikes that have been held and the fact some people are having to work at home.

The service said: ‘We are currently operating with reduced staffing levels on site due to social distancing rules in Wales and ongoing industrial action by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union.

‘Industrial action has been taking place since April and PCS is targeting a variety of areas within DVLA designed to have maximum negative impact on members of the public. This means that there are continuing delays with paper applications and in reaching our contact centre. There are no delays for those applying online.

‘We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused but we are working as quickly as we can to deal with your application. We receive around 60,000 items of mail every day that needs to be opened and processed.’ 

Tax rebates 

A heavy workload at HMRC combined with working from home has seen rebates delayed

A heavy workload at HMRC combined with working from home has seen rebates delayed

HMRC is also struggling with the processing of tax rebates to taxpayers.

Many who are owed money are having to wait up to six months to get their cash back.

This has been sparked by a combination of an increased workload relating to managing Covid payments as well as Brexit paperwork.

It has seen staff moved around to tackle different duties that are a bigger priority.

An HMRC spokesperson has said: ‘We’re doing all we can to process self assessment rebate claims as fast as possible and are sorry to any customers who have waited longer than they expected.

‘We’re continuing to redesign our business to meet our customer demand needs in the most effective way, based on our available resource.’

Birth, marriage and death certificates 

Ordering service for birth and other certificates will not commit to providing by any date

Ordering service for birth and other certificates will not commit to providing by any date

Online ordering of birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership and death registrations for England and Wales from the General Register Office has also been badly hit.

It has been straight with customers and has told them certificate orders will not be completed within the published timescales

The office said: ‘In line with public health guidance, the General Register Office is operating with reduced staffing to comply with social distancing guidance.

‘We remain committed to processing orders as fast as we can, however we will be unable to confirm when your order will be completed.

‘If your order is not urgent, please apply at a later date so we can help those who need our services the most.’

Renewing passports

The passport office has warned people they could face an up to ten week wait to renew papers

The passport office has warned people they could face an up to ten week wait to renew papers

MailOnline told yesterday how holiday-starved UK residents hoping to travel abroad for a well-deserved break were facing ten week queues to renew their passports.

The waiting time is over triple that of the clearing period pre-coronavirus, when it took just three weeks to get a new document.

The Home Office said warnings have been issued due to a potential rush for renewals after numbers applying for new passports dropped to four million in 2020 from seven million on average. 

Texts have been sent by mobile phone out to those whose documents are nearing expiry.

It reads:  ‘Reminder: It takes up to ten weeks to get a new passport. Don’t leave it too late, renew now.’

And the website for the identifying travel papers urges people to avoid delaying getting them re-ordered.

 A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We continue to process passport applications promptly and last month 99.6% of passports using the urgent Fast Track and Digital Premium services were issued within their respective service standards.

‘Since the outset of the pandemic, more than 4.5 million people have delayed applying for a passport.

‘With the potential demand for passports higher than ever before, passport processing times could change quickly.

‘Since April we have been advising applicants using the standard service to plan to wait up to 10 weeks before they receive their passport.’ 

Civil servants could spend as little as TWO DAYS a week in the office under ‘flexible WFH’ 

Civil servants could spend as little as two days a week in their offices in Whitehall under plans to make flexible working the ‘new normal’. 

Government departments have been told to come up with their own approaches to getting staff back into offices. 

One model under consideration would see officials split their time ’30/70′ with 30 per cent of the week in the office and 70 per cent working from home. 

It comes despite Rishi Sunak warning that being physically present in an office can help young people boost their careers and amid lingering fears over the fates of town and city centres if workers do not return.  

Tory MPs have urged the Government to toughen its stance on the return of workers, arguing there is ‘every good reason for people being back in the office’. 

The vast majority of civil servants would not return full-time to Whitehall under the flexible working plans, according to The Times.

It is thought the Cabinet Office will issue guidance to departments containing an assessment of how much time people in certain jobs should spend in the office. 

Staff in policy roles are likely to be able to work from home for the majority of the time while those in operational roles are more likely to have to be physically present.

The Government’s approach to the return of workers this year is in marked contrast to last summer when there was a forceful drive to get staff back to Whitehall after coronavirus case numbers plummeted before a subsequent U-turn.

The Government has now formally ditched its advice to work from home but it is not actively encouraging staff to return, insisting it is a decision for employers and employees. 

There are growing concerns among Tory MPs over the long term sustainability of struggling town and city centres if many staff do not go back to their pre-pandemic commutes. 

One senior Tory MP told MailOnline that the Government should be telling staff to return to offices, arguing there are career, health and economic benefits to going back. 

‘There is every good reason for people being back in the office and the Government should be telling people to go back to work,’ they said. 

Pointing to the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout, they added: ‘We don’t appear to be capitalising on that by getting back to normal life more quickly. We do need to start seeing our cities returning to life again.’

Another Conservative MP said the civil service’s approach is ‘bizarre’ and they believe it would make sense for people to be ‘more in than not’.

 


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