Hundreds of thousands of Britons remain paralysed by delays as Covid restrictions cause major bureaucratic backlogs.
Frustrated travellers, motorists and families have been waiting months for important documents and appointments as many public officials continue to work from home.
About 200,000 people are in the queue for new passports, more than 80,000 drivers are waiting to get paperwork posted back to them and at least 300,000 learner drivers are in limbo as all practical tests have been cancelled until the latest lockdown is eased.
As of January 18, a total of 115,604 passport applications were still waiting to be processed and another 84,425 were work in progress [File photo]
Many new parents have yet to record their babies’ births as register offices are either still closed or working through a huge backlog of appointments.
And taxpayers ringing HMRC are having to spend longer on the phone trying to get through with the average time to answer a call now more than 13 minutes.
Last night Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said: ‘No one should pretend that these are small matters. I see in my own casework that members of the public struggling with bureaucracy can be reduced to tears of despair.
‘When they need to travel, such as to see relatives, this kind of backlog can be a disaster for thousands.’
The bureaucratic paralysis caused by the spring lockdown was first exposed by this newspaper in July.
Frustrated travellers, motorists and families have been waiting months for important documents and appointments as many public officials continue to work from home [File photo]
Yet new figures show that the backlog was not cleared over the summer or autumn when staff were encouraged to return to the office. It is now on the rise again as many public buildings have been closed since the autumn.
As of January 18, a total of 115,604 passport applications were still waiting to be processed and another 84,425 were work in progress.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Her Majesty’s Passport Office has continued to operate throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Renewal applications from the UK are being printed within published timeframes and the latest public health measures do not change our ability to operate.’
However, he added: ‘We would encourage people to apply online now as part of their preparations to travel when conditions allow.’
The DVLA also saw a pile up of 66,228 paper driving licence applications – twice as many as in November. Another 19,537 paper log books are either being processed or are in a queue.
And high numbers of cancellations have taken their toll on learner drivers too, with DVSA figures showing a backlog of 342,947 car test bookings.
Ian McIntosh, chief executive of RED Driving School, said: ‘The backlog of driving tests is becoming an increasing concern… This is a huge financial burden on learners and is adding to the bottleneck.’
A DVSA spokesman said: ‘We are working hard to make sure that when it is safe to resume testing as many customers as possible who want a driving test and are ready to take it, can access our services.’
High numbers of cancellations have taken their toll on learner drivers too, with DVSA figures showing a backlog of 342,947 car test bookings [File photo]