DVA jobs: 300 go in NI as service moves to Wales
About 300 jobs at Northern Ireland's Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) are being lost.
The UK government is centralising services in Swansea but it will not mean new jobs at its headquarters in Wales.
Most of the Northern Ireland jobs are based at the DVA's office in Coleraine, County Londonderry.
Northern Ireland's Environment Minister Mark H Durkan described the job losses as a "devastating blow".
He said staff would feel "completely betrayed" by the decision.
"This is purely a narrowly focused cost-cutting exercise made with no regard whatsoever for standards of service, the impact on customers, or the wider impact on the economy of Northern Ireland and, in particular, of Coleraine," he said.
UK Roads Minister Stephen Hammond said: "We have listened very carefully to the points raised during consultation, particularly about the uncertainty for the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) staff who currently provide vehicle registration and licensing services.
"While the changes mean DVA will no longer provide these services, the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has said that they will try to avoid redundancies and minimise the amount of compulsory redundancies as a result of these changes."
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said he was "exceptionally disappointed" but not surprised by the news.
Mr Campbell is also hoping to have a meeting with Northern Ireland's Finance Minister Simon Hamilton about the job losses.
What the changes mean for motorists
- Motorists in Northern Ireland will now be able to tax their vehicle online or by telephone.
- These changes bring Northern Ireland into line with services that have been available in Great Britain since 2006.
- The number of post offices where vehicles can be taxed is being increased to about 175 branches across Northern Ireland.
- If a car is being kept off the road, the DVA can be informed online or by phone.
- The changes come ahead of the removal of the tax disc, which will be replaced by an electronic system in October.
"I'm arranging a meeting with him in the next couple of hours to see if there are any positions within the Northern Ireland Civil Service, that training could be offered to these DVA civil servants, to allow them to be transferred," he said.
"Now I don't want to raise any hopes on this unnecessarily. This is exceptionally bad news."
East Londonderry MLA John Dallat, SDLP, said the workers were "devastated, feel abandoned, let down and trampled upon".
"This decision demonstrates very clearly the low priority Northern Ireland has when it comes to decision-making and it calls into question the sincerity of the Tories when they claim they are on the side of rebuilding our economy and pointing to a better future for everyone," he said.
"The secretary of state and others based in Westminster should hang their heads in shame for sitting on their hands when they should have been full-square behind the workers."
Cathal Ó hOisín, Sinn Féin East Londonderry MLA said: "While we have known for some time that the British government had planned to centralise DVLA services in Swansea, the news that the Coleraine office will close by Christmas is still devastating.
"This is a massive financial blow not only to the workers but the entire community as over 300 wages are removed from the local economy."
David Harding, Ulster Unionist mayor of Coleraine said: "This decision will come as a devastating blow to the economy in Coleraine and the surrounding area.
"The priority must now be to provide the staff with as much support and assistance they require at this very difficult time."
Ryan McKinney from the union, NIPSA, said staff had been left devastated.
"They have completely ignored the real economic impact that such a decision is going to have right across Northern Ireland, and particularly in the Coleraine area which will be hit by a factor of 18 times greater than any other office closure anywhere in these islands," he said.Campaign
The UK government has previously said centralising services would save money and allow drivers in Northern Ireland to tax vehicles online and by phone.
But there has been an energetic campaign against the move by those who believed the job losses would have a devastating impact on an area of Northern Ireland that is already struggling with high unemployment.
As well as Coleraine, there are seven other motor tax offices in Northern Ireland based in Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Londonderry and Omagh.
The campaign to retain the DVA services in Northern Ireland has had the backing of all of Northern Ireland's political parties and business leaders.