Backlog Britain: how civil service job cuts could cause chaos

From passports to driving licences, from visas for Ukrainians to tax processing, the system is already creaking

Ministers’ plans to slash 90,000 jobs from the civil service come at a time when there are a series of administrative logjams in the system – which a drop in staff numbers could exacerbate.


The Passport Office has just announced that it is hiring 700 extra staff after widespread reports of people being unable to travel as planned because of significant delays in receiving passports or receiving updates on what is happening. There is an ongoing scramble for scarce appointments – and warnings that new passports could take weeks to be issued.

The new staff will be hired by an outside contractor, Teleperformance, which indicates another potential issue with a wholesale reduction in civil service numbers – if staff are simply replaced by contractors, little money is likely to be saved.

Driving licences

A longer-running saga even than the passport imbroglio. Large numbers of people have complained about significant delays receiving documents from, or even being able to contact, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The issues appeared to begin with Covid-related issues at the DVLA’s Swansea base, with some people saying they had waited for up to six months.

Visas for Ukrainians

Home Office data shows that just over 100,000 visas have now been issued, from around 133,000 applications, under the schemes by which displaced Ukrainians can come to the UK because of family links or because they are sponsored by an individual or organisation. But there have been repeated reports of long delays for Ukrainians eligible to come, and some have even given up on coming to Britain.

Tax processing

HMRC has been affected by both Covid and the complications of Brexit, with a particular complaint being the time it can take for tax refunds to be sent out. A process that should take weeks can sometimes now last months, and some people are still owed significant sums.


Peter Walker

The GuardianTramp

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