Passport Office boss under pressure to return to HQ full-time as backlog threatens holiday chaos

Ms Tierney was appointed director-general of both the Passport Office and UK Visas and Immigration in March 2020, when the pandemic began. She previously worked for Serco, the private contractor for many public services, and has a PhD from the University of Oxford.

Since her appointment to the £160,000-a-year post leading the Passport Office, she has claimed almost £4,500 in expenses for 20 trips to London between March 2020 and July 2021 – a 16-month period during which the Government advised employees to work from home unless absolutely necessary.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We have Passport Offices in a range of locations across the UK, with 90 per cent of our staff based outside London. It is therefore ludicrous to suggest that any senior leader not living there would impact on their ability to do their job to the highest standards.

“As part of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda, we are proud that we are spreading opportunities and leadership roles more evenly around the country and we will continue to do this. It is only right that we attract the best talent from across the UK.”

A Home Office official accused The Telegraph of asking a “highly inappropriate question” over whether Ms Tierney was working predominantly from home. The official said that the Home Office would not comment “on the personal circumstances of whether or not they [civil servants] are commuting into the office”.

A second official said Ms Tierney did spend time in Leicestershire at her home as part of flexible working and that her job did not require her to be in the London office.

Officials confident of hitting 10-week target

Staff processing secure passport applications did need to work at the Passport Office’s various locations around the country. Ms Tierney’s role as director-general did not require her to be in the office at all times, although the source insisted that she worked from other sizable offices, including in Peterborough, a much shorter distance from her home.

Mr Foster told MPs he was “confident” that the 10-week target for passports would not be extended further, as the Government came under fire over its handling of applications.

He said that 90 per cent of applications had been issued within six weeks between January and March, despite the surge in demand – and the “vast majority” within 10 weeks. A record one million had been completed in March.

“The core message we would want to get out to the public is to make your application now if you are planning to travel in the summer, and we will get through it in the time we say we will, which is the 10-week period,” he said.

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