MOT backlog: Blameless drivers fined over car tax should be exempt, says MLA

Drivers are facing waits for MOT tests of up to two months at many centres in Northern Ireland
Drivers are facing waits for MOT tests of up to two months at many centres in Northern Ireland
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Calls have been made for motorists caught out by the long waiting times for an MOT test to be made exempt from fines for not paying their car tax.

Drivers are unable to tax their vehicle without an MOT but, despite waiting times of up to two months for a vehicle inspection appointment, some motorists are being issued with fines for failure to pay their tax.

UUP MLA Roy Beggs told the News Letter drivers are being ordered to pay £40 fines, rising to £80 if it’s not paid within a short period of time.

He is calling for motorists unable to tax their car due to the MOT backlog to be made exempt.

Mr Beggs said: “Of course if you haven’t got an MOT then you can’t get taxed. Then, because of the MOT waiting times you have a car which is off the road for some time.

“First of all, there’s a cost to individuals of having a car which may be in perfectly good working order off the road because of the backlog.

“But the problem is, if your car is untaxed, you are supposed to make a SORN declaration – a Statutory Off-Road Notification.

“People are being fined for failing to make these SORN declarations.

“The wait times for MOT tests are now around eight weeks. They’re clearly not managing this.”

He added: “The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland, under the Department for Infrastructure, looks after the MOTs. The DVLA in Swansea (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) are responsible for car tax.

“If they were talking to each other we wouldn’t be in this situation.

“I will be pushing for exemptions from these SORN fines for those unable to get an MOT.”

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who as environment minister until 2016 when the department was abolished had responsibility for MOT testing, echoed those calls for exemptions.

“This is yet another ridiculous outworking of this whole situation. It’s also a costly outworking of this situation,” he said.

“Not a week passes without a new set of circumstances arising to further underline the ridiculousness of this situation and the need for decisive action to be taken to ensure people are not punished for something through no fault of their own.”

A spokesperson for the DVA in Northern Ireland said, in a statement to the BBC, that the DVLA are “aware” of the current issues with the MOT backlog. The DVA said it has asked the DVLA to “consider whether there are any measures” that can be taken to address the vehicle tax problem.

The long backlog faced by drivers across Northern Ireland was first revealed by the News Letter at the beginning of June and, despite the attempts to bring waiting times down since then, there has been no improvement.

Waiting times now stand at around two months for an appointment across Northern Ireland’s 15 testing centres.

The DVA has recruited extra staff, begun issuing reminder letters earlier, and opened certain MOT centres on Sundays.

Despite calls from politicians in the DUP, SDLP and the Alliance Party, the DVA has, to date, ruled out issuing MOT exemptions.