Staff at the 39 regional offices of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) are on a one day strike today in protest at the UK Department for Transport’s plans to close them, centralising the service in Swansea.
Over 1,200 jobs are likely to be affected by the move – which would see the offices close by the end of 2013, saving, the government says, £28 million a year.
Interestingly, the Minister involved, Roads Minister, Mike Penning, was the Shipping Minister in the department and involved in doing exactly the same sort of thing to the Coastguard service – closing regional stations and centralising nationwide rescue coordination from a single base at Fareham in Hampshire.
You have to say that these guys, not renowned for flexibility, make a single idea go a long way.
Penning says that centralisung the DVLA in Swansea will ‘make dealing with the DVLA easier’ – a neat example of the conflicted attitude many Ministers have to their brief.
At the moment, the DVLA’s regional offices are spread around the country and the wholesale closures p0lanned will affect the offices in Scotland and the jobs they support – in Aberdeen, Carlisle, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
This move will also impact on the SNP Government’s plans for a putative independent Scotland.
With the DVLA established at these six offices around Scotland, it has been said by the ‘Yes’ campaign that citizens in an independent Scotland would continue to have British driving licences.
With the DVLA planned to be out of Scotland and settling into a unified existence in Swansea by the end of 2013 that particular ‘business as before’ reassurance may be more awkward to stand up.
However there is time between the end of 2013 and the independence referendum in October 2014 for the existing plan for driving licences either to be confirmed or for its proposed replacement to be made public.