DVLA criticised for delays in vehicle licence applications

Wed,29 March 2023
News Transport
MPs have been investigating the backlog of driving-licence applications that have been accumulating at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Up to three million people who applied for licences since April 2020 experienced delays, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said, with 60 million phone calls going unanswered.

The Public Accounts Committee also said that nearly three million customers notifying the DVLA of medical conditions had experienced long delays in their applications – with many saying the situation at the DVLA has cost them jobs, and lost income. Many others reported that they could not hire vehicles, and that they were unable to arrange insurance. Some DVLA customers experienced isolation and worsening mental health when unable to go about their usual daily lives without a valid driving licence.

The committee said that although the covid pandemic had made operations more difficult for the DVLA, they were not prepared for the challenge of keeping driving licence services running as normal, accusing the department of taking a “hands-off approach”, and noting that some of the DVLA’s operations are antiquated, and that it lacks a comprehensive strategy for modernisation.

With regards to the situation at the DVLA, MPs have now called on the agency to set out a long-term technology plan to enable digitisation, while the PAC suggests that the DVLA set up better systems for those experiencing delays, improve its communication with customers and implement a contingency plan to be shared with the committee.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Committee, said: “The pandemic inevitably made operations more difficult, but the DVLA and DfT were not prepared for the challenge of keeping essential driving licence services running – and especially not for those who needed it most.

“Some of the DVLA’s operations are antiquated, it lacks a comprehensive strategy for modernisation and on PAC we’re unconvinced they’re more ready for the next crisis.

“When that does arise, it will again be the most vulnerable customers – people for whom driving is a lifeline – who are worst hit. That’s just not acceptable. The DVLA must get its act together.”

Dan White, policy, and campaigns officer at Disability Rights UK said: “Disabled people are more dependant than ever on their own transport. Being able to drive means Disabled people can secure work they couldn’t get to on public transport, and that they can also get to essential health appointments. The DVLA really need to modernise, to get their act together, quickly. The community cannot rely on public transport as it is mostly inaccessible and erratic, mobility and social interaction depends on personal transport, it is a priority.”