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Drivers left fuming over problems with taxing cars online

By Claire Williamson

Stranded drivers are faced with chaos and a catalogue of problems when trying to renew their car tax after the introduction of a new system.

The scenes of frustration came after the Driver and Vehicle Agency moved its services from Coleraine to Swansea last month.

Now, instead of visiting offices in Northern Ireland, the six-monthly or annual renewal can be done online or by a visit to post offices. Yesterday disgruntled customers voiced their concerns as their online renewal attempts failed.

Among them was Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan who called it a "disaster".

He said: "When I got the renewal certificate I went to the computer on August 1 but it asked me for a unique 16 digit code, but the V11 they sent out to everyone here had a 20 digit number and not a 16 digit one.

"I tried to do it over the phone and they told me because it was a new system it wasn't set up for use yet and they had absolutely no information as to why it wasn't working."

He added: "Services need to be delivered as close to citizens as possible and putting them all in one central spot doesn't always work out."

Alistair Mitchell (28) from Dundonald also experienced problems. He said: "You would have thought that they would have been ready for the switch."

It also emerged that car dealers in Northern Ireland have had problems with registering new cars. Colin Cunningham from Crawford Clarke Cars in Belfast said it was a "nightmare" which was costing his firm sales.

He said: "English-registered vehicles landed in Belfast with English-registered plates, they aren't taxed. So it may have a valid GB MoT certificate but it's not valid in Northern Ireland.

"It doesn't allow us to tax the cars in the post office here. It has to be sent off to Swansea and they are unable to tell us the time frame of it.

"Secondly, if a customer wants an NI registration on the car it has to go (to Wales) too. It goes to Swansea and gets lost in transit."

The Environment Minister called on the Minister for Transport in London to deal with the problems. A spokesman for DVLA said: "Over 1.7 million Northern Ireland vehicle records were successfully automatically transferred to DVLA on 21 July – that's nearly 96% of the total number of vehicle records that were previously held by the DVA. Due to issues with some of the records provided from DVA we are manually transferring the remainder. Of these records only around 850 were due for tax in this month and we have been prioritising these for urgent resolution.

"We have always expected a very small number of issues in the data migration. This is well in line with our expectations and, contrary to wider comment, DVLA's systems have operated very successfully during the migration."

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