Covid chaos is causing red tape misery for millions of Britons waiting for passports, driving licenses and tax returns as civil servants continue to work from home
- An overwhelming majority of civil servants are continuing to work from home
- 80 per cent in some cases despite Government encouraging a return to offices
- This is causing red tape misery as MPs and campaigners urge them to return
Covid chaos is still causing red tape misery for millions of Britons with months-long delays in the processing of essential documents such as passports and driving licences.
Yet an overwhelming majority of civil servants are continuing to work from home – 80 per cent in some departments – despite the Government encouraging workers to return to offices.
Last night, MPs and campaigners urged them to return immediately.
There has been a series of strikes after staff complained about returning to the office following concerns about the lack of social distancing
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘They’ve got to get back into the offices and look at ways of clearing the backlog.’
John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance added: ‘With taxes at the highest level for 70 years, it would be deeply unfair for taxpayers to see the standard of services decline due to the Whitehall work-from-home revolution.’
Rolling strike action and social-distancing rules have left the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) facing a ten-week turnaround time for new licences. The Swansea-based agency is still processing driving licence renewals it received in June.
There has been a series of strikes after staff complained about returning to the office following concerns about the lack of social distancing.
Industrial action by the Public and Commercial Services Union has added almost half a million items to the backlog, which means there are about 1.4 million licences waiting to be processed.
There are also long delays for learner drivers who want to take a theory test
Student Mia McFadden, 17, from Southbourne, Dorset, saved up and bought herself a Fiat 500 from her wages at McDonald’s. But she still can’t drive it because she faced a ten-week wait getting her provisional licence due to Covid delays and then found herself at the back of a three-month queue for driving lessons.
‘Now I can’t find an instructor because there is a massive backlog in people taking their test,’ said Mia, right. ‘I won’t be able to have any lessons until next year.’
There are also long delays for learner drivers who want to take a theory test. Some living in Aberdeen have even made the 1,000-mile return trip to take it in London because of the delays in Scotland. Both practical driving tests and theory tests were suspended from January due to restrictions, but resumed in July, creating a massive backlog.
The DVLA said: ‘There are delays in processing paper applications due to ongoing industrial action and social-distancing requirements.’
Officials are warning travellers they face a ten-week wait for a new passport rather than the usual three – but The Mail on Sunday has found people being forced to wait more than three months.
Karen Hyman, 47, applied for a renewal of her six-year-old son’s passport on July 23 for a family holiday with her partner and other son in late August.
But when it did not arrive in time she was forced to cancel the whole trip. ‘My boys are devastated and we have lost over £3,000,’ she said.
Last night, a Home Office spokesman said they are ‘currently issuing online renewals within published timeframes’. However, they refused to say whether there was a backlog with postal applications or how many staff are working remotely.
CRIMINAL RECORD CHECKS
Jobseekers have been hit with weeks-long wait times due to chronic delays at the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which carries out vetting for employers.
Roles in the police, prison service, care sector and schools require a criminal record check.
The DBS, which carries out the checks for employers, recently admitted home working had ‘tested our ability’ to meet a surge in demand during the coronavirus lockdowns. It said basic checks were taking twice as long to process as usual last year.
Some teachers or care workers, who need enhanced vetting because they work with children, say waits have forced them to go on Universal Credit.
Sports lecturer David Francis, 35, was forced to find temporary work in a warehouse when it took more than three weeks for his DBS check to come through after he moved colleges.
‘I have got bills and rent to pay,’ he said. ‘I even had to extend my overdraft.’ Last night the Home Office declined to comment on DBS checks.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘They’ve got to get back into the offices and look at ways of clearing the backlog’
Grieving families are having to wait three times longer than usual for the probate service to process inheritance after a loved one has died.
It used to take two weeks to obtain a grant of probate by post but now it takes six. John Kennedy’s wife Barbara left her entire estate to him when she died in January after 68 years of marriage. Mr Kennedy, 89, asked his accountant to request probate soon after but he is still waiting.
‘It is very inconvenient. I have to pay for three carers to look after me,’ he said.
‘It’s worrying that others have been waiting for over a year. I might not be here then.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘We hired extra staff to meet unprecedented demand during the pandemic and online probate applications are now being granted in less than a week.’
He refused to say how many staff were working from home.
Frustrated architects firms are complaining that projects have been delayed by up to six months due to chaos in council-run planning departments across the UK.
Mortgage companies also complain of delays in processing local land searches – a requirement for most lenders.
Estate agents and property solicitors said the delay is causing home sales to fall through – while the majority of council staff continue to work from home.
Fifty-seven per cent of councils reported they were not ‘operating normally’, according to a Local Government Association workforce survey.
David Renard, Local Government Association planning spokesman, called for council planning departments to be given greater resources. He said. ‘While in some cases delays may be unavoidable, councils are doing all they can to address these.’
Taxpayers owed thousands of pounds in rebates have been warned they will not receive the money until next February.
HMRC’s latest figures reveal that this year just over a third (35.5 per cent) of 4.5 million items of post have been cleared within its target of 15 days but recently agreed that all employees can work at home at least two days a week and offered its staff a 13 per cent pay rise over the next three years.
One irate taxpayer said: ‘I just called HMRC because they took emergency tax. I filled the relevant forms five weeks ago and today they told me I have to wait until January or February.’
A spokesman for HMRC last night denied that the rebate delays have anything to do with staff working from home.
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