A MAN at the end of his tether over delays in getting his passport has described having to travel 160 miles to pick it up in County Durham – only to be met by a long queue and "chaos".

Ethan Alexander, of Glasgow, said after waiting more than 11 weeks for his document he had to travel to the Durham Passport Office in desperation – the day before he was due to fly out to Italy. 

The 21-year-old was one of dozens of people queuing at the at the passport office - many complaining of struggling to get help on the telephone. 

The Northern Echo: Ethan Alexander who had to travel from Glasgow to pick up his passport Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT Ethan Alexander who had to travel from Glasgow to pick up his passport Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

This comes barely 24 hours after The Northern Echo reported that City of Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy had warned of "toxic" working conditions at the city’s passport office and had written to Home Secretary Priti Patel asking her to intervene immediately.

Mary Kelly Foy told fellow MPs of allegations of "toxic working cultures", "bullying tactics" and a staff member who "contemplated suicide" at Durham passport office, during a debate in parliament earlier this month.

Yesterday an exasperated Mr Alexander said: "Last week I phone up to ask where my passport was.

The Northern Echo: Queue at the Durham passport office Queue at the Durham passport office

"At this point it had been abourt 11 weeks since I applied. I was told I was guaranteed to get it on June 23 and it it wasn’t there I should call after the weekend.

"On Monday I called but was told would have to pay an extra £100. I said I was up for it as long as I got my passport in time." 

Mr Alexander said he was referred to an "upgrade team" and told he would get a call in 48 hours - but still has not heard from them.

He said: "I made calls to 20 different people in the passport office, each trying to give me advice on what to do and saying different things.

The Northern Echo: Queue at Durham passport office Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT Queue at Durham passport office Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

"One of them said my passport was in Durham and I had to travel down to get it.

"I have a flight tomorrow. I had to travel down from Glasgow this morning on a train.

"I need to get my passport to get the train back to Scotland, so I can pack a suitcase and get my friend to drive me down to London to get a flight to Italy on Friday morning."

He added: "It has been so much hassle. People kept coming out of the office asking for my name and your number.

"They came out five time and told me there is nobody to come and speak to you yet. At 11am somebody said if you come back in an hour it will be ready. I came back on the dot and it wasn’t ready.

"It’s disappointing and infuriating because I was promised something and was then told I would need to pay the extra for their mistakes.

The Northern Echo: City of Durham MP Mary Kelly FoyCity of Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy

"And then also not to have the appropriate contact. Nobody contacted me whatsoever through this whole process, so I was confused as well.

The only thing I have been told is just wait that little bit longer.

By 3pm Mr Alexander had still not got his passport, and his phone's battery appeared to die. 

When Northern Echo approached the Home Office it provided Mr Alexander's name and was asked for his passport reference number which was not available.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Northern Echo refused to give us any of the information we'd need to look into the claims being made.

"Staff are processing approximately 250,000 passport applications each week and between March and May 98.5% of applications were completed within 10 weeks."

Responding earlier The Home Office said: “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 Northern Echo:

 

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