North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has suggested that the decision to close the DVA centre in Coleraine was short-sighted and has not taken Northern Ireland specific considerations in to account.
Mr Paisley was reacting to a letter received from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond MP which confirmed, despite strong opposition to the proposals which look set to cost 300 people their jobs in Northern Ireland, that the government will proceed with the closure.
“It is extremely disappointing that the government have decided to go ahead with their initial proposals despite the disastrous affect it will have for employment in the North coast.”
“Coleraine losing 300 jobs is the equivalent of Birmingham losing 13,000 jobs, imagine the outcry if they tried to implement that?”
The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) has been working to try and persuade the government to reverse their decision ever since it was first proposed almost two years ago. Representatives of NIPSA along with a group of Northern Ireland MPs including Mark Durkan of the SDLP and Mr Paisley’s DUP colleague Gregory Campbell presented a petition to 10 Downing Street with over 20,000 signatures assigned to it.
NIPSA Spokesman Ryan McKinney said “The Coalition Government have not heard the last of the DVA campaign. They seem incapable of understanding that after two years of campaigning we are going to be difficult if not impossible to silence. We have overwhelming public and political support and staff have nothing to lose. The focus must now turn to securing other civil service work for DVA staff. However the work must be brought to the workers not the other way around. We can’t turn our backs on Coleraine in the way the government have. The fight goes on!”
All vehicle licensing looks set to be relocated to Swansea and Scotland has already seen all of its offices closed as part of the move. Mr Hammond’s letter read “As centralising vehicle services provides annual savings of £12million the case for retaining a local office network in Northern Ireland is not a strong one, especially when all the other local offices have already closed.”
However Mr Paisley has claimed that the government have made no acknowledgement of the different dynamics of vehicle licensing in Northern Ireland from that in the rest of the UK when making this decision.
“We are the only country in the UK that shares a border with a non-UK country. Our licensing laws have to cater for the movement of cars both to and from the Republic of Ireland. Our local staff are well versed in these procedures. Sadly if this decision by Mr Hammond is upheld then by the time the government realise that Swansea will not be able to provide a service anywhere near as efficient as the one that currently exists, it will be too late. Huge backlogs are already being experienced as a result of the closure of the local branches in Scotland, adding Northern Ireland motorists and the complexities of cross-border travel to the workload makes no sense. £12million is a very small saving on the grand scheme of things and it is a shame that Northern Ireland drivers are going to suffer as a result of this disappointing decision by the government.”