Motor industry being left in the dark as local DVLA office closures loom
Most individuals and business owners that work in the motor trade will have been watching out for updates on the imminent DVLA Regional and Local Office closures with baited breath. Since the official announcement was made last summer, much speculation has surrounded the many potential ways that these closures will affect automotive businesses and their customers. However, despite reassurances that DVLA services and transactions will be available online in time for the changes to come into effect, as the mid-December deadline draws ever nearer, the motor trade is still waiting for updates and information regarding the implementation of these online alternatives.
DVLA details – the few facts we know
As things currently stand, the few details that we have been given are that all DVLA services are going to be taken under the wing of the headquarters in Swansea. This substantial change will render all local offices that are currently situated throughout Great Britain completely redundant – along with the majority of their staff. While 450 new jobs will be created at Swansea, this still means 750 DVLA employees are facing unemployment.
This creates a problem of balance; with less staff required to do more work, already strained systems will be put under even more pressure. This, in turn, could leave motor traders and their customers with huge delays – especially if the vehicle being bought or sold is subject to a personalised number plate transfer.
Closures are due to start being rolled out in October and November, and by mid-December, DVLA Local offices in England and Wales will cease to exist in entirety. When you look at the maths, the ability for the new system to cope just doesn’t add up – even if the online structures are effective. With 40 local offices serving hundreds of customers a day, even with 450 additional central office staff, massive backlogs are inevitable.
How will the motor industry be affected?
Despite the promise to channel millions of pounds into the development of a new online, self-service system, there are still many key service aspects that simply won’t translate to the digital platform.
While some services have already started the transition to the internet, others, such as the provision of tax discs for brand new cars, will now be posted out from Swansea – rather than being issued at a local level. In anticipation of potential teething problems with this new approach, DVLA proposes a change in the law which will give owners of new cars the right to drive without displaying a tax disc for two weeks.
Certain customer applications, such as cherished plate transfers that have historically taken 7 days to process at local offices, are now being handled centrally at Swansea and are taking several weeks to complete. To make matters worse, DVLA now insists you wait 6 weeks before telephoning the call centre there to check the progress of your application.
Of course, the real issue for dealers and number plate specialists is one of information, with the industry hoping that planned workshops will soon answer their questions. Ironically, the man responsible for recommending these huge changes, Simon Tse, the former Chief Executive of the DVLA, left his post in March – not even seeing them through to completion. The smooth transition initially promised is looking evermore a pipedream.
Unfortunately, it seems that the motor industry has no choice but to cross its fingers and hope that the DVLA will be good to its word – but it’s understandable that businesses in the automotive sector are anxious. From having the facilities to deal with matters on the same day at a local level, to the prospect of having to wait weeks whilst things are centralised, it will have a knock-on effect which is likely to cause delays for both car retailers and private individuals.