Outrage as Coleraine DVA Agency to shut with loss of 300 jobs


More than 300 jobs at the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Northern Ireland are to go.

All motor tax offices are to close with all licensing services transferred to Swansea, Wales, the Stormont Environment Minister Mark H Durkan announced on Thursday.

Coleraine, Co Londonderry will be hardest hit as part of the centralisation move.

Mr Durkan said it was devastating news for the DVA staff and their families.

He said: “I am outraged at the announcement. Motorists in Northern Ireland are accustomed to getting a very high standard of service from the DVA and no doubt this will be significantly affected when the service is delivered remotely from Swansea.

“The dedicated staff in DVA will also feel completely betrayed by this decision. They have consistently demonstrated their efficiency, hard work and commitment, producing customer satisfaction levels of over 97%.

“During the public consultation on these centralisation proposals, the motor trade and the motoring public demonstrated their overwhelming support for retaining local delivery of vehicle licensing and confirmed their high regard for the work of DVA. This announcement completely ignores all of these facts.

“This is purely a narrowly focused cost-cutting exercise made with no regard whatsoever for standards of service, the impact on customers, or the wider impact on the economy of Northern Ireland and, in particular, of Coleraine.”

Coleraine will lose 235 of the 300 jobs, but according to Mr Durkan, an assessment by independent economists estimate the knock on impact will equate to the loss of around 500 jobs, removing £22 million from the Northern Ireland economy.

He said Peter Robinson, the Northern Ireland First Minister and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pointed out to Prime Minister David Cameron at an economic conference in Belfast last October the inconsistency of the London Government promising to assist the Executive in stimulating and developing the economy of Northern Ireland on the one hand and imposing a crushing blow like this with the other.

Mr Durkan said: “It begs the question what assistance are they really providing to the north’s economy beyond honeyed words.

“The Executive, political parties, trade union and DVA staff all campaigned to prevent this ill-judged decision being made but now that the decision has been made, my focus must now be on ensuring that the impact is lessened, as far as possible, for customers and for staff.”

John Dallat, an SDLP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly whose east Londonderry constituency includes Coleraine revealed Mr Durkan was on his way to the United States for St.Patrick’s Day when London confirmed the announcement. Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are also in Washington.

He said: “The workers are devastated, feel abandoned, let down and trampled upon. At the minute they have a very low opinion of what passes as democracy when every elected representative opposed the loss of over 300 jobs in Coleraine.

“This decision demonstrates very clearly the low priority Northern Ireland has when it comes to decision-making and it calls into question the sincerity of the Tories when they claim they are on the side of rebuilding our economy and pointing to a better future for everyone.

“The Secretary of State and others based in Westminster should hang their heads in shame for sitting on their hands when they should have been full-square behind the workers. They have made no contribution to those who have worked through the worst of times to build a new society.”