Belfast Telegraph

Bid to save DVLA jobs lands at door of Prime Minister

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

More than 300 government workers in Northern Ireland are facing a second Christmas under a jobs loss threat.

Yesterday, 10 Downing Street was the focus of an united campaign to save jobs at Coleraine's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

A 40,000-signature protest petition was handed over by a delegation from the north west to stop the planned closure by the end of the year.

The group, comprising of council, business, union and staff representatives, along with MPs and MLAs, gathered in London for a last stand bid to save the jobs.

Whether the campaign, which has gathered momentum recently, will prove successful will not be known until the new year.

The Coleraine workers – and staff at all regional centres of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – learned in December 2011 of the plans to centralise services in the DVLA's Swansea headquarters in a bid to cut costs.

Drivers throughout the UK will then have the option to organise tax and licences online or by post.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said yesterday that the campaign to save the jobs had the support of all parties in the Assembly.

He has also previously raised the issue in parliamentary debates in the House of Commons.

From London, Mr Campbell said: "There really only is one other place you can go now with this and that's 10 Downing Street.

"We have done everything possible to take this campaign to the ultimate conclusion. Now we await the response," he said.

Ryan McKinney from public service union Nipsa said yesterday that the regional centres had a 98% customer satisfaction rating.

"We have heard all what the Government has said on this issue, we have seen their Press releases and proposals," he said.

"But the fact is that only an 0.5% increase in vehicle tax evasion would wipe out the proposed savings that the Government is talking about and it will leave us with a much worse service."

Coleraine mayor David Harding said the campaign had "exhausted the local government levels" and "it was time to bring it here to the heart of Government".

Sandra Dunlop, a mother from Bushmills, Co Antrim, spoke of the impact of having to work in Belfast if the Coleraine centre was closed and she was transferred.

Also in the delegation were Ballymoney mayor John Finlay and Ian Donaghy, Causeway Chamber of Commerce president.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Coleraine is one of 39 regional centres providing services on behalf of the Department of Transport. The agency maintains the registry of all drivers and vehicles in the UK. The move to close the regional centres and centralise services to Swansea was made in December 2011. Some centres have already closed and 13 more will close this month.

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