Environment Minister Mark H Durkan described the loss of over three hundred jobs in the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) as a devastating blow.
The Minister was making his comments in response to the announcement today by Ministers in London, to centralise all vehicle licensing services in Swansea and to close all motor tax offices in Northern Ireland.
Mr 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 focused 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.”
The Minister added: “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 focusing 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.”