More than 500 people could lose their jobs in Northern Ireland if vehicle licensing offices move to Wales, it has been claimed.
The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, could shut as part of the centralisation of services being considered by the Westminster Government.
Northern Ireland’s environment department has lobbied the Department of Transport in London to keep the posts in Northern Ireland.
SDLP MLA John Dallat told the Northern Ireland Assembly: “The British Government needs to understand that this assembly and our people need very substantial support to build a new economy which is self-sustaining and which doesn’t continue to lag behind the other regions.”
He said the planned change would “kill off” 300 public service jobs in a town where there is already high unemployment and cited expert advice that at least another 240 people who rely on the spending power of those workers will also become unemployed.
The MLA criticised Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers’ handling of the matter.
“Does this lady not understand that her role as Secretary of State denies her the luxury of ignoring the plight of the workers and the subsequent consequences and fallout of such an action?” he asked.
“Surely she can do better if she is seriously acting as Secretary of State enjoying the perks and status that this title bestows upon her?”
In December 2011 the Department of Transport in Westminster proposed the closure of 39 regional Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) offices across the UK to centralise the service at its Swansea headquarters.
It said the agency needed to modernise and offer more services online, claiming the closures would deliver significant savings.
Mr Dallat said in a recent survey of DVA customers only 11% said they would prefer to tax their vehicles online. The rest wanted to tax their vehicles using existing renewal methods.
In June it was revealed the Department of Transport had put the closure plans on hold pending the outcome of a consultation on jobs.