Motorists in Northern Ireland have not had access to the same range and level of vehicle registration and licensing services as their counterparts in the rest of the UK. In previous statements we have announced the department’s intention to address this issue. This led to a consultation on the future of vehicle registration and licensing services in Northern Ireland being carried out between July and September 2013.
I am today (13 March 2014) announcing that following a review of the responses to the consultation, I have decided in consultation with my ministerial colleagues that the full range of vehicle registration and licensing services will be available to motorists in Northern Ireland from July 2014. This will entail the centralisation of transactions at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea. The changes will for the first time allow motorists in Northern Ireland to take advantage of automated vehicle licensing, either online or by telephone. Northern Ireland motorists will also have access to additional face-to-face services at around 175 Post Office branches. The changes will also ensure that Northern Ireland motorists can immediately access new services, including direct debits for vehicle excise duty and enhanced online services, which will be introduced later this year. As well as improving services to Northern Ireland motorists, the changes will save £12 million every year.
These changes mean that the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) will no longer deliver vehicle registration and licensing services to Northern Ireland motorists. We recognise the potential impact of this change. We have considered carefully the responses we received as a result of consultation and this proposal includes additional support both for customers and for staff. The DVA’s local offices will now remain open to support vehicle registration and licensing services until the end of 2014 while the new services bed in. The DVA’s office in Coleraine will provide a similar service. While I recognise that the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has said that they will try to avoid redundancies and where these are unavoidable, to aim to minimise the amount of compulsory redundancies as a result of this decision, my department will work with officials there to support any staff who need to learn new skills to secure alternative employment.
I am publishing a package of documents to accompany this statement which assess the impacts of the changes being made and summarise the responses to the consultation. These documents provide more detail of the future services that will be available to Northern Ireland motorists and will be published on GOV.UK and in the libraries of both Houses.
I am committed to improving the services motorists in Northern Ireland receive, and supporting customers and staff through these changes. The DVLA will work with customers, stakeholders and staff to support the transition to the new service channels. Finally, I would like to place on record my thanks to DVA staff for their hard work in delivering vehicle registration and licensing services to Northern Ireland motorists over the years.