Outraged At London

Over the last few months we have been reporting on the threat to 300 employees of losing their jobs at the DVA (Driver and Vehicle Agency)  in Northern Ireland.

The threat which is now a reality and looks like a foregone conclusion, as the announcement has been made by Ministers in London, to centralise all vehicle licensing services in Swansea and to close all motor tax offices in Northern Ireland.

The Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has described the loss of over three hundred jobs in the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) as a devastating blow.

Mark H Durkan said: “This is devastating news for all the hard-working staff of the DVA and their families. I am outraged at the announcement today by Ministers in London that they intend to move all vehicle licensing work to Swansea and to close all the motor tax offices here. Motorists in Northern Ireland are accustomed to getting a very high standard of service from the DVA and no doubt this will be significantly affected when the service is delivered remotely from Swansea.

“The dedicated staff in DVA will also feel completely betrayed by this decision. They have consistently demonstrated their efficiency, hard work and commitment, producing customer satisfaction levels of over 97%. During the public consultation on these centralisation proposals, the motor trade and the motoring public demonstrated their overwhelming support for retaining local delivery of vehicle licensing and confirmed their high regard for the work of DVA. This announcement completely ignores all of these facts.

“This is purely a narrowly focussed cost-cutting exercise made with no regard whatsoever for standards of service, the impact on customers, or the wider impact on the economy of Northern Ireland and, in particular, of Coleraine.

“I have consistently made it clear to Ministers in London that there is no justification for the centralisation of these services and jobs in Swansea. In these representations I have had the full support of all of my Ministerial colleagues and of MLAs, councillors and others right across the political spectrum. This decision represents the loss of funding for over 300 jobs, 235 of which are in Coleraine and an assessment by independent economists estimates that the knock-on impact will equate to the loss of around 500 jobs and will remove £22million from the economy. The First Minister and deputy First Minister emphasised this point to David Cameron at the economic conference in Belfast in October, pointing out the inconsistency of the London Government promising to assist the Executive in stimulating and developing the economy of Northern Ireland on the one hand and imposing a crushing blow like this with the other. It begs the question what assistance are they really providing to the north’s economy beyond honeyed words.

“The Executive, political parties, trade union and DVA staff all campaigned to prevent this ill-judged decision being made but now that the decision has been made, my focus must now be on ensuring that the impact is lessened, as far as possible, for customers and for staff. Officials in DVA will work with DVLA in Swansea to oversee the transition to the new way of working and will seek to ensure that DVLA make sure that customers know how to access services in the future. DVA will continue to deliver services to customers to the highest possible standards right up until DVLA close the local service down but I am sure that the public will appreciate that, as that point approaches, it will be increasingly difficult to sustain the current high standards of service.

“I will be focussing heavily on the needs of the staff affected in DVA. I appreciate that this will be a very worrying time for staff and their families, who will be feeling very let down by London right now, but I will work hard to bring some certainty to the situation for these dedicated and committed people as quickly as possible.”

Changes In Northern Ireland

How will these changes affect us here in Northern Ireland.

Information released through the GB .gov website states that, “With the planned introduction of enhanced electronic services in NI, will provide parity of service across the UK and ensure NI motorists have access to additional services that are not currently available to them.”

These changes will take effect before the end of 2014 and will change the way you register and license your vehicles from that date.

The changes will include:

  • Access to the DVLA’s online vehicle licensing service. This will allow NI motorists to re-license a vehicle or make a Statutory Off Road Notification 24 hours a day, seven days a week from home, work or abroad
  • Improved face-to-face services for NI motorists will be available at around 175 Post Office branches across NI, some with Saturday opening, which will offer an enhanced range of licensing transactions
  • NI customers will be able to purchase NI and GB personalised registration numbers through DVLA’s Personalised Registration sales scheme
  • The DVLA’s fleet scheme will be made available to fleet operators in NI
  • Movement of vehicles between NI and GB will be simplified
  • The facility to retain NI registration numbers will be introduced. This will allow NI customers to hold a registration number on a Certificate of Entitlement, for future assignment to an alternative vehicle
  • The transfer of registration numbers between NI and GB vehicles will be streamlined, creating a UK wide market for NI and GB cherished number dealers
  • Data services will be harmonised, allowing customers with a right to access vehicle and keeper information to obtain GB and NI data from a single source
  • DVA offices will no longer offer vehicle registration and licensing services, either face to face or by post and additionally, some services currently provided by the DVA will be delivered differently in future, in line with services already available in GB.

We are told that more detailed information will be made available over the coming months and in the meantime, customers should continue to register and license your vehicles the way you do today.

Meanwhile on the nidirect government services website information has been published outlining online and Post Offices services which will be enhanced after July

List of Post Offices where you can licence your vehicle (motoring section)

If you recently sent in an application for a tax disc, registration document, cherished transfer and so on, then your application will be dealt with as normal.

You can also contact the  DVA Enquiry Team who should be able to deal with any queries until the centralisation is complete.

Driver and Vehicle Agency – vehicle licensing enquiries (contacts section)

For us at Right To Ride and the effect on motorcycling it is the small details of personal contact that is available locally that matters, such as inspection of bikes for registration changes or identifying older unregistered or lapsed registered motorcycles.

Whether this disappears into the DVLA at Swansea, six calls and transfers to speak to somebody to deal with an issue, transferred possibly to DVTA (MoT Centres) staff, nobody knows at this point in time.  But no matter, from what we are told, the DVA staff are in limbo not knowing what the future holds for them and that is a personal tragedy.

Original Sources: Department of the Environment news  – nidirect government sources

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