HM Passport Office has launched a recruitment campaign to hire 99 operational team leaders and counter team leaders, days after acknowledging it was facing “unprecedented levels of demand” for travel documents.
The Home Office agency drew fire from prime minister Boris Johnson over reported backlogs in passport processing last month. HMPO said delays were a result of a surge in applications among some five million people who delayed applying for a passport while Covid-related travel restrictions were in effect.
Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said HMPO teams were “working flat out” to meet the demand, which is expected to see 9.5 million applications made this year, up by around three million on normal levels.
Media reports have criticised working arrangements in the passport office, suggesting that staff working from home are slowing down processing times. But Rycroft said staff's work locations had "precisely zero bearing on the current situation with passports, which has largely resulted from a drop in applications during the pandemic".
The PCS trade union said pressure was being exacerbated by a reliance on agency workers and a shortfall in recruitment last year. It said HMPO had fallen around 30% short of a target to recruit 450 additional staff as part of a longer-term drive to increase headcount by 1,700.
Last month, HMPO said it had increased staff numbers by 500 on the April 2021 figure, meaning it had added 4,000 more workers in passport-production roles, and was looking to recruit an additional 700 staff.
Its latest campaign for operational team leaders and counter team leaders offers up to £31,519 a year for the 19 posts based in London, and up to £27,372 a year for the remaining positions, which are split between Peterborough, Durham, Glasgow, Belfast, Newport and Liverpool.
In a foreword to the applicant pack, perm sec Rycroft acknowledges the department’s work is “never far from the news” but stresses its business is also “extremely rewarding” and carries a lot of responsibility.
“Few organisations can offer careers with the potential to make such a significant positive impact on society and on the lives of others,” he said. “This privileged position offers great opportunities for colleagues, including for their development and career growth.”
The operational team leader roles involve overseeing staff processing passport applications that have been submitted online, via the post, or through service partners. Counter teams provide face-to-face appointment services for customers and back-office processing for their applications.
The job description for the roles calls for leaders who can manage and develop teams “with the aim of improving performance and consistently meeting targets for quality, efficiency and customer service”.
The roles are open to applications until 11.55pm on 23 May.