DVLA closure proposal put on hold
Plans to close Northern Ireland's DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing) centre have been put on hold.
The Westminster Government has agreed to look again at a proposal which could mean the loss of more than 300 jobs at the centre in Coleraine, Co Londonderry.
Alex Attwood, who has held talks with the Department for Transport and UK Roads Minister Stephen Hammond, welcomed the decision to undertake a consultation process which he claimed would create the space to escalate the argument for job retention.
Mr Attwood said: "The impact of closure of DVLA licensing would be great. The job losses would be big. To offer help to Northern Ireland on one hand, with the recent economic pact, but on the other hand to end up with 300-plus DVLA job losses is not credible.
"These are the arguments that I will maximise in the new consultation, working with the parties and political representations and unions. I believe there are good arguments to retain the jobs and I will work to achieve this. London can hear and accept the strength of all of this."
The Government wants to centralise the DVLA in Swansea and move more services online by the end of this year.
Last December, DVLA workers throughout the UK staged a one-day strike to protest against the planned cuts. Unions claim the closures would wipe out the face-to-face services these offices provide to the public and motor traders.
Mr Attwood said the announcement of the consultation was a partial outcome but noted there was still much work to be done to guarantee the jobs.
"I will work positively with Stephen Hammond over the next month but also challenge the Department for Transport to agree that the jobs must be protected. That's my ambition. That's what we should all work to," he said.
Earlier, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland revealed 150 new public sector jobs are being created. The child maintenance agency posts will be based in Belfast.