Union challenges government over passport office closure plans

passportPCS is calling for full a public consultation on plans to close almost 50% of passport offices as early as March.

HM Passport Office yesterday announced the detail of its plans for its “transformation of customer service operations.” PCS says it was not consulted over plans to close as many as 15 sites across the UK.

HMPO currently has an estate of 33 interview offices that will reduce to 17. These plans put forward a radical closure plan which will break what little link remains with the communities staff serve, towards a future that relies heavily on the public travelling longer distances for interviews at extra cost or the choice of a limited video conference facility at a few locations. Many of the remaining sites remain at risk because of leases ending in 2018.

The union says the plans fail to understand the challenges and risks that people face in all communities, undermine the service HMPO provides and impose further costs and inconvenience on working families. PCS is demanding that HMPO enters into substantive talks over its proposals and that the plans are scrutinised by parliament.

The proposals would see the following offices closed:

  • Aberystwyth (planned closure May 2016) – replaced by video service outside HMPO
  • Blackburn (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Bristol (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Carlisle (planned closure May 2016) – replaced by video service outside HMPO
  • Coleraine (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Crawley (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Dundee (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Hull (planned closure May 2016) – replaced by video service outside HMPO
  • Leicester (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Isle Of Wight (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Norwich (planned closure May 2016) – replaced by video service outside HMPO
  • Sheffield (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Swansea (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Warwick (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Wrexham (planned closure 18 March 2016)
  • Yeovil (planned closure May 2016) – replaced by video service outside HMPO.

A PCS spokesperson said: “Our first priority is to keep offices open. But we will also be seeking commitments from HMPO to retrain people and move them across business streams within the Home Office to support redeployment if necessary.

“If HMPO believes that the future it is building is the right one, it has nothing to fear from subjecting its plans to scrutiny from all stakeholders. This is a radical remodelling of the HMPO footprint. As recently as 2014, HMPO was in crisis as it failed to retain staff and plan properly. Proposals of this magnitude should be subject to a public review and be signed off politically by the government of the day. We are calling for the implementation of these plans to be suspended while a full consultation goes ahead.”

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