DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said the Department of Infrastructure at Stormont should not have been “caught unaware” by long MOT backlogs.
The department has blamed an “unprecedented increase” in the number of motorists seeking an MOT this year for the lengthy waiting times for an appointment.
But the former Northern Ireland finance minister believes the “fairly good statistics” available on the number of cars bought each year means the increase should have been expected.
The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) has been working since the beginning of June to try and relieve some of the backlog.
Extra staff have been recruited, reminder letters are being sent out earlier, and certain MOT centres have even accepted appointments for Sundays.
Despite these measures, the waiting times have not gone down.
In fact, waiting times across most MOT centres now exceed two months.
Back in early June, when the extent of the backlog across Northern Ireland was first revealed by the News Letter, waiting times exceeded two months at only two centres – Newbuildings and Omagh.
Now, that’s the case at the overwhelming majority of Northern Ireland’s 15 centres.
Mr Wilson said steps to bring down the backlog should have been put in place much earlier.
“The MOT is something which I contacted the department about – first of all to ask them why did this happen?
“Surely, MOTs every year are fairly predictable.”
He continued: “They told me there was a 4.8% increase at the beginning of this year and that this had been unexpected.
“Is that bad planning? We’ve got fairly good statistics on the cars that are sold in Northern Ireland. We know when they’re going to come of an age that they’re going to require MOTs. So, should that increase in MOT applications have caught the department unaware? I don’t think so.
“Why has it taken them until now to introduce some of the measures such as additional overtime, and bringing in new people?
“Another thing they (the Driver and Vehicle Agency) said to me is that there are a lot of people who simply don’t turn up for their MOTs.”
Recent statistics issued by the DVA stated that there were 2,300 missed MOT appointments in June. But figures published by the BBC recently suggest that rate of missed appointments is actually below average. Across the 2018/19 financial year, there were a total of 32,000 missed appointments – an average rate of more than 2,600 per month.
Mr Wilson added: “The missed appointments don’t appear to be the cause of this. And don’t forget – they still charge the fee.”