Questions over DVLA closure plans as PFI cancellation costs are revealed

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The cost of UK Government plans to close all five DVLA regional offices in Scotland have been questioned after it emerged that the offices are included in a private finance initiative contract.

The Department of Transport has trumpeted the closures as a way of making savings, however the SNP are now calling for clarity over cancellation penalties attached to the PFI contract with Telereal
Trillium.

After parliamentary questions on the plans were tabled it has emerged that:

  • – the potential liability for redundancy payments for the regional offices in Scotland would be estimated in the region of £2.3 million.
  • – that DVLA spent in excess of £1million refurbishing the closure threatened offices over recent years.
  • – making DVLA staff redundant would throw away decades of valuable experience, for example, the average service length of staff at the Dundee centre is more than 20 years.

The SNP have called for assurances that there will be a ‘genuine consultation’ following the announcement to close 39 regional DVLA offices, including all five in Scotland, with the loss of more than 1200 jobs across the UK, and 122 in Scotland.

SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP said:

“These closures have been trumpeted as a way of making savings, but the UK Government must be absolutely honest about the full costs of these cuts.

“PFI is not just an expensive way of providing services, but often comes with notoriously costly cancellation penalties.  We need clarity from the UK Government on these costs, and a commitment that they will be considered as part of the final decision.”

The coalition government made the announcement earlier this month.  UK Roads Minister Mike Penning, claimed the closures could save the UK Treasury around £28m every year.

Five offices in Scotland – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow – are expected be closed by the end of 2013.

Mr MacNeil added:

“The closure of all five of Scotland’s regional DVLA offices would be totally unacceptable, throwing away years of staff knowledge and expertise, and diminishing important services which are paid for by Scottish taxpayers.

“Talk, by Ministers, of making more transactions available online is not an answer for people in rural areas who do not have access to super-fast broadband, or in some cases broadband at all, so the centralisation of services would hit the Highlands and Islands especially hard.

“When people want services delivered closer to home it is wrongheaded for the UK Government to keep centralising services.  We hear a lot of talk about the big society and localism from the Coalition Government, but we have to see much more evidence of decentralisation or dispersal when it comes to jobs by the Coalition Government.

“UK Ministers must think again over this ill-timed and ill-conceived plan.”