MP Ian Paisley has called upon the government in London to have a fresh period of consultation with regards to the re-locating of all of the UKs motor vehicle licensing administration to a centre in Swansea, which commenced earlier this year, closing all centres across the rest of the UK in the process, costing thousands of jobs.
Mr Paisley commented: “There was cross-party solidarity from all of the Northern Ireland representatives in Westminster objecting to these proposals. We could not stress enough how important it was that Northern Ireland centres, especially the centre in Coleraine which employed over 300 staff, should be left out of this re-structuring given the complexities that are unique to this country as the only member of the United Kingdom who share a border with a non-UK nation.”
Ryan McKinney of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) explained: “When we met with officials from DVLA in Swansea they were at pains to reassure us that there would be no glitches, yet we now know that the public are experiencing problems with even the most basic functions. I am concerned that more complex processes such as the replacement license disks for imports and re-registrations and cherished transfers will cause more severe delays for the motor trade and hauliers. This will have a knock-on effect on trade and the economy.”
A delegation of NIPSA staff and MPs met with the Department of Transport on various occasions in London to air their concerns to the government as well as delivering a petition directly to Downing Street containing over 30,000 signatures objecting to the closures.
“We left those various meetings feeling positive, not only by the fact that we had been granted them in the first place, but also by how understanding the department appeared to be with our arguments. Therefore it was very disappointing when I later received written confirmation from the Department of Transport that the proposals to re-locate to Swansea were going ahead” said the MP for North Antrim.”
Mr McKinney also noted: “Our colleagues in Scotland highlighted these exact same frustrations this time last year when the Swansea base was exposed as being completely overcome by the workload that Scottish licensing requirements had placed upon them. Yet the government chose to add Northern Ireland to the workload as well, it’s nothing short of shambolic.”
Mr Paisley concluded: “It is not too late for the government to hold their hands up and admit they perhaps underestimated the complexities that Northern Ireland motor vehicle licensing issues generate. We have our highly trained staff still sitting here, readily available to take over this workload if parliament would take the path that makes clear sense and revert back to allowing Northern Ireland to take care of itself on this issue.”