Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

'Unfair' car tax bias drives DUP Assembly move

The DUP says drivers here are being less fairly treated than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

The Assembly will hear today that Northern Ireland motorists should be able to renew their car tax online and by phone, just as in the rest of Britain.

Strangford MLA Simon Hamilton said it is unfair that people in Northern Ireland can license their dog online but can't tax their car, and have only limited access to a phone service.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Hamilton said: "More and more services, including those delivered by the public sector, are making good use of advances in technology.

"The Northern Ireland Executive, for example, has made a whole host of services including benefits and rates applications available online, as have local government bodies. There is something wrong when you can get a dog licence online but you can't renew your car tax."

He said the current system was an anomaly and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency here needed investment in new technology.

"A few years ago, DVLA - who are ultimately responsible for car tax - invested significantly in a sophisticated IT system that allows people to renew their tax online so long as they have their car registration number, insurance policy details and a payment method.

"This is on top of an extensive telephone renewal system.

"No similar investment was made in the Northern Ireland system to permit online renewal.

"Instead we just have a phone system that can handle a maximum of 500 calls a day and has a number that can't be advertised.

"Furthermore, people cannot tax their car in every post office in Northern Ireland, creating a disadvantage for many rural dwellers. Making car tax renewal facilities available in more post offices could not only improve customer service but also enhance the viability of the network .

"As technology advances, this anomaly with car tax will look even more ridiculous."

Mr Hamilton is calling on all parties to back the call for reform.

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