The passport office has responded to allegations of a ‘toxic’ culture of ‘bullying’ at its Durham site, raised by a North East MP yesterday.

Mary Foy, MP for City of Durham, revealed damning stories from whistle-blowers inside HMPO (Her Majesty’s Passport Office) Durham as staff battle a backlog of passport applications.

She told the House of Commons yesterday of ‘staff shortages’, alleged ‘bullying tactics from senior officials’, ‘staff too afraid to speak’ out about their working conditions.

Speaking during an opposition day debate on passport application backlogs the Labour MP said: “Staff morale is understandably at an all-time low. Covid outbreaks have led to staff shortages, yet staff are under pressure to return to office working, including bullying tactics from senior officials and poor communication from management.

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“Disturbingly, staff have told me they’re too afraid to speak out about their working conditions for fear of disciplinary action.

“Staff are subject to verbal abuse from the public and have shockingly witnessed an attempt to self-harm by an applicant desperate to receive their passport.

“Tragically, one member of staff’s mental well-being has been impacted so severely that that they told me they had contemplated suicide.”

On Monday she revealed she was refused a permit to visit the passport office in her constituency to discuss issues with staff.

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Responding to the allegations, a HMPO spokesperson told The Northern Echo: “Our hard-working staff are processing 250,000 passport applications each week and we have increased staff numbers by 650 since April 2021 to handle more applications than ever.

“Staff wellbeing is of utmost importance and any staff member who has concerns about their workload or work conditions is encouraged to raise this with their manager as soon as possible.”

The passport office said it would be recruiting a further 550 staff this summer to increase capacity to deal with applications.


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