Canaries to lose British Consul

Canaries to lose British Consul

Update 11 April 8pm: The Foreign Office has issued the following press release:

Steve Jones, British Consul for the Canary Islands and Malaga, appointed Global Contact Centre Manager for the Foreign Office
 
Search for new Consul for southern Spain begins – handover expected in May
 
Malaga Contact Centre to act as model for three further centres worldwide
 
Steve Jones, British Consul for the Canary Islands and Malaga, is to take up a new role as Global Contact Centre Manager for the Foreign Office’s flagship Contact Centre programme.
 
After two terms as Consul for the Canaries and four years as Consul in Malaga, Mr Jones has been appointed to manage the expansion of the highly successful Malaga Contact Centre – which will soon handle consular enquires from across the whole of Europe and Africa – and the creation of three more centres in Hong Kong, Dubai and Ottawa. Once all four centres are established, Mr Jones will oversee the day-to-day performance of the global contact centre operation.
 
Dave Thomas, Consular Regional Director for Southern Europe, said:
 
“We will be sad to lose Steve as Consul, particularly after only five months in the Canaries.
 
“However in that time he has increased the number of customer-facing staff from eight to nine, including the Honorary Consul in Lanzarote, extended opening hours at the Consulate in Tenerife, and set-up a new process for seeking customer feed-back in Gran Canaria that we will now be extending across southern Europe.
 
“He has also successfully managed the development of the Malaga Consulate and Contact Centre over the last two years, increasing the number of staff delivering consular services from seven to 25, and recruiting and launching Honorary Consuls in Almeria and Jerez.
 
“The Vice Consuls and their teams in the Canaries and Malaga will continue to deliver exactly the same high quality of consular assistance. The new Consul will take over the responsibility for strategic issues and consular policy. Steve will remain in post until May before the handover to his replacement.”

Update 11 April 2013: I was always dubious about plans to reduce the consulate presence here, and the replacement of Maria Leng with Steve Jones based in Malaga, and indeed the situation is again up in the air to the detriment of the Canaries with the news that Mr Jones is to be moved on within just five months of his appointment. Apparently he is now to head a new “Global Contact Centre” being set up by the FO. Only the other day I was contacted by someone who was getting nowhere trying to report a stolen passport. It will be interesting to see what the new arrangements will be for these islands. When will they realize that people don’t want a “global” contact anything. They want an immediate contact in the Canaries.
 

Update 22 November: The Foreign Office insists that this is not a cost-cutting exercise but a restructuring. Well, that restructuring is also affecting the Balearic Islands as well, with their consul now based in Barcelona. And if anyone thought the reaction here was excessive, the Majorca Daily Bulletin has laid into the decision, and just a glance at the front page above will show that any reaction in the Canaries has been mild by comparison. I don’t think either archipelago is being unreasonable to ask why a “restructuring exercise” has been foisted on expatriates and holidaymakers alike in Britain’s two most popular areas of Spain without any forewarning or consultation. I don’t think either archipelago is being unreasonable, either, to say that “restructuring exercise” is not, actually, enough of an explanation.

Update 20 November: The British Embassy has announced that Steve Jones, the Consul in Malaga, will now cover the whole of southern Spain including the Canaries. An extra casework officer will be recruited in Tenerife for the Consulate here. The “restructuring process” involves caseworkers providing face-to-face assistance, with Consuls focusing on “strategic issues”: the Embassy sees these including “new ways of preventing and tackling the most common and complex problems that face Brits abroad – from lost passports to serious criminal matters”. In what sounds very much like management-speak, Dave Thomas, Consular Regional Director for southern Europe, said that the Consuls were being freed up “to focus on consular policy, driving up standards of delivery and customer service, and overall management of our consular teams”.

The Embassy press release says:

Steve Jones succeeds Maria Leng, who has led the team in the islands for the past two years and contributed extensively to the modernisation of British consular services there. He brings a wealth of experience in assisting British nationals and in representing the United Kingdom in Spain. He has led the busy consular team in Malaga for three years, where he also oversees the Foreign Office’s consular contact centre for southern Europe.  Last year he collected the Foreign Secretary’s Award for Service Delivery. He served as Consul in the Canaries between 2007 and 2009.  He previously worked in the travel industry in the Canaries, as Overseas Manager for Thomas Cook based in Fuerteventura.

I’m sure everyone will wish Steve well in his new post, but I’m also sure that we in the Canaries would wish for a dedicated Consul on the ground here in these islands. As the Embassy itself says: “The Canaries are among the most popular destinations worldwide for British nationals, with some 85,000 residents on the islands and 3.5 million visitors every year. ”

Original post 9 November: The Canaries are to lose their full-time Consul status. The Consulate is to be merged with Malaga as part of a “restructuring process” which is almost certainly a euphemism for “cost cutting exercise”. This is a huge blow for British residents and holidaymakers in the islands who, despite occasional complaints, rely heavily on the permanent availability of a Consulate service for everything from hospital emergencies to lost passports, or Britons under arrest to mundane document procedures. Where does that leave the Canaries now? No doubt this story will run and run, and there will be much more on this in days and weeks to come.

14 Comments

  1. Hello Janet, Please can you advise me if I am correct that there is a British Consulate office in Los Cristianos ??

  2. Author

    As far as I’m aware, it’s just in Santa Cruz, Sarah. I had reason only the other day to try to arrange something in the south and was told there was no option but to go up north.

  3. Hi Janet, The removal of the British consulate service will be a nightmare for anyone unfortunate enough to require help, whether it be self inflicted or otherwise. Earlier this year my neighbour discovered she had lost her UK passport on the day she was to return to Scotland, (she believes it was stolen from he handbag). She went to the airport and explained her problem but was refused to fly. As you said, the consulate is based in Santa Cruz and the next day she went there to get a temporary passport, (only lasts 48 hours and costs €100). However her next problem was to get a flight home within the timescale and luckily, she did. Now, if they close the consulate in Santa Cruz, what help can any UK citizen get? There must be 100’s of unfortunate UK citizens who maybe through their own or someone else’s fault will suffer the same problem, so where or how can they obtain another passport? Has the British consulate thought about that? Are other countries closing their consulate’s as well? Surely, there must be some way to return to your ‘Home’ country? Has anyone got an answer? Would such a problem be covered by holiday insurance?

  4. Author

    As far as I can see their argument is (or will be) that Tenerife will still be covered, but in a larger “southern Spain” consulate, which will include Malaga … and be where the consul him/herself is based. There’ll still be an office in the Canaries, but it will be general staff rather than a consul proper, and of course they not only did away with the southern surgery but reduced their public opening hours to twice a week in any case!

  5. Would be interesting to know if Mr Jones will take out residency here to avail himself of the 50% flight subsidy or will FCO not bother with that cost-saving measure. It would pose a curious dilemma: to save money, resident in the Canaries, but ‘politically domiciled’ in Malaga. What a shambles. I just love the ‘face to face’ staff bit. How can you get to see them if they have shut the surgery in the south and have slashed opening times in Santa Cruz? You can’t even get them on the phone let alone a face to face meeting.

  6. Several years ago I had my handbag stolen in Tenerife. The openng hours of the consulate were very poor at that time and I could not contact them by phone. The theft was reported to the police and I received a typed copy of my report from the Guardia. When we were flying back to the UK I had to attend the flight desk early to present my police report and I was allowed to board the plane without a passport. I would like to know if the same system can still work these days. I had a report from my bank on return by letter and my credit card had been used to purchase something in a local shop in San Juan within a half hour of the bag theft. There were no secure details in the bag and the purchase must have been odd for the shopkeeper as the bank was obviously from a Yorkshire bank account in a small Spanish shop but fortunately I did get reimbursed by the bank. I did try to report the details by phone to the consulate but there was nobody there who spoke English and I had to get a friend with Spanish skills to ring them when they were open again. I doubt if it was investigated.

  7. How ridiculous to have such a poor service in something that is vital when something goes wrong! I was unfortunate to have my passport, wallet and belongings stolen in Ibiza in 2003. Fortunately the British Consulate Office over there was only 10 minutes away and they were very helpful and efficient in providing with with a temporary passport enabling me to fly back to the UK. What the hell do you do if the office is closed and not open before your flight is due home? Pity my bank weren’t as efficient though as whoever stole my things managed to use my credit card to make 3 individual purchases at various electrical shops to the tune of over 300 euros! Thankfully they wrote this off as it happened after I had cancelled the card so it was their own fault for not acting quicker.

  8. I think the Canaries have been lucky to have had the services of a British consulate for so long. We Brits living in Switzerland have to get our new passports in PARIS. Firstly the Lugano Consulate was closed so we had to go to Zurich or Generva and now even these two have been closed.

  9. I must admit I did think it a bit rich to see people complain about the loss of one of the 2 offices in Tenerife when for Lanzarote the consulate is in Gran Canaria!

  10. Obviously Lanzarote isn’t as popular then? Been once…….didn’t return.

  11. It’s nothing to do with popularity. The consulates are only on the 2 “capital” islands, so Tenerife in the west and Gran Canaria in the east. If you are on one of the 5 other islands then you have to travel.

  12. Echoes of John McEnroe on the Majorca newspaper front page. Would have loved to see the inside, it must have been very embarrassing for the British authorities. We should take a leaf out of their book.

  13. Some years ago, I think under the Blair Gov’t there were talks that everyone should have an ID card. I can’t remember if this was to replace a need for passports or in addition too? On occasions when buying items I have been asked to show my passport along with my debit/credit card, (even though it has a pin number), so what I did to stop the need to carry my passport all the time was photocopy the relevent details, (passport number, name photo, etc) and reduced it to a credit card size. All my details could still be seen be it smaller but this was accepted. I’m not sure if this would be accepted at customs but at least used in conjunction with a plastic UK Drivers Licence, (which has the same photo used for your passport) may at least help. Even if it doesn’t satisfy Spanish Customs it still is worth having. What do others think?

  14. By the way, I heard the new Consul on radio yesterday (Adeje English programme) and I reckon he needs a reality check. He encouraged anyone with views on the opening hours of the Consulate and other issues to ‘pick up the phone and give us a ring’. Has he tried to get in touch with himself via the ridiculous filtering call centre??? Even worse, he constantly talked about the staff at the Consulate as ‘my girls’ and ‘the girls’. What era does this guy live in? Maybe instead of giving him more responsibilities, the government should give some more training. He sounds as if he needs it.

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