MORE than 1,200 employees, including some in Leeds, Sheffield and Beverley, faced an uncertain future today after plans were announced to axe all 39 regional offices of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
Designed to save £28 million a year, the proposal was said by the Government to be part of plans to make dealing with the DVLA easier for motorists and businesses.
But Labour said the timing of the announcement, just before Christmas was “particularly insensitive”, while the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said the news was “devastating for staff”.
The 39 offices are expected to close by the end of 2013, Roads Minister Mike Penning said. Ten of the 39 centres include DVLA regional enforcement centres.
Under the Government proposals, the work done at the centres will be centralised at the DVLA’s headquarters in Swansea in South Wales.
Mr Penning said: “This is a major step change which will make dealing with the DVLA easier and quicker for motorists and businesses up and down the country.
“Centralising the DVLA’s services is the first crucial step towards making more of its transactions available online, allowing people to deal with the DVLA at their chosen time and place. This will mean quicker turnarounds and meet our customers’ growing needs.”
But PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “With unemployment and inflation remaining high, these cuts to local communities are outrageous and unnecessary, and will further weaken economies crying out for investment.
“DVLA senior managers have previously denied this is what they were planning, so to announce it just two weeks before Christmas is insulting and devastating for staff.”
Labour shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: “Regardless of the merits of reforming the way DVLA services are delivered, it is particularly insensitive for ministers to have made this announcement in the run-up to Christmas, adding to the financial stress already facing families at this time of year.”
The DVLA has been a Government agency since 1990 and keeps driver and vehicle records.
It employs 6,116 staff, with 1,213 potentially affected by the proposed office closures.
The 39 regional offices carry out a range of administrative functions such as arranging trade plates for garages, vehicle inspections and personalised registration mark transfers.
The 10 enforcement centres carry out a range of back-office duties relating to the DVLA’s enforcement of offences, which include failure to tax vehicles, having no motor insurance and failing to tell the DVLA about vehicles being kept off the road.
Consultation with affected staff began today.
The offices are in Beverley in East Yorkshire, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Carlisle, Chelmsford in Essex, Chester, Exeter, Ipswich, Leeds, Lincoln, Borehamwood in Hertfordshire, Sidcup in south-east London, Wimbledon in south-west London, Maidstone in Kent, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, Stockton on Tees, Theale in Berkshire, Truro, Worcester, Bangor in Wales, Cardiff, Swansea, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Inverness.