Backlog Britain

July 28 2022
Backlog Britain

Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Voice

MY constituency office has been busy in recent weeks, trying to help people get their passports in time to go on their summer holidays.

Most of the constituents who have contacted me did the right thing in applying early but, only days before they were due to travel, still hadn’t got their documents.

MPs' staff are spending hours on hold to the Passport Office. While I'm glad we've been able to help in most cases, it really shouldn't require an MP's intervention.

This is just one example of Backlog Britain. I'm also dealing with delays with people getting their driving licences; in one case my constituent needed their licence back to be able to take up a new job and contacted me in desperation, when the job offer was about to be rescinded.

HMRC is also struggling, and it's taking much longer for people to receive tax refunds.

These delays are bad enough, but the problems in the health service are potentially deadly. We’ve been hearing of people waiting hours for ambulances to arrive and of logjams outside hospitals, as patients wait to be transferred from ambulances to A&E and then onto wards.

The average ambulance response time for category two calls – the most serious conditions – is now 40 minutes, more than double the 18 minute target. One in ten is kept waiting almost an hour and a half.

Recently, every ambulance service in the UK reached ‘black alert’, the highest alert level, due to heatwave pressures and massive delays outside hospitals.

Constituents – many of them – have also contacted me in despair about not being able to find an NHS dentist. Some are struggling to get a GP appointment, which is another reason why A&E is so stretched.

All this shows what happens when you aren't prepared to fund public services. Everyone praised our NHS staff during the pandemic, but it's easy to clap. What our NHS needs is proper investment and a workforce that is valued and rewarded.

Politicians – or rather, certain politicians – need to stop portraying civil servants as a burden rather than as hard-working people, providing essential services.

The soon-to-be-ex Prime Minister called in May for 90,000 civil service jobs to be cut, to fund the cost-of-living crisis and future tax cuts. Several candidates to replace him have been falling over themselves to go even further.

It’s very easy to denigrate civil servants and to talk about slashing 'red tape'. But these pen-pushers are the people who process our passports, driving licences and tax refunds.

They may not be on the frontline, but we still need them for society to function and we certainly notice their absence when they're not there.