DVLA closures plan puts 1,200 jobs at risk
The government is proposing the closure of all 39 Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) regional offices, putting more than 1,200 jobs at risk.
The closures, due by the end of 2013, could save about £28m a year, it says.
Roads Minister Mike Penning said the plans to move more services online and centralise the DVLA in Swansea would "make dealing with the DVLA easier".
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said the plans "make no economic sense".
The DVLA employs 6,116 staff - 1,213 of whom are potentially affected by the proposed office closures. Consultation with staff began on Tuesday. Unions are also to be consulted.
The proposals affect all 39 regional offices, described by Mr Penning as "expensive".
They are Beverley in East Yorkshire, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Carlisle, Chelmsford in Essex, Chester, Exeter, Ipswich, Leeds, Lincoln, Borehamwood in Hertfordshire, Sidcup in south east London, and Wimbledon in south west London.
Maidstone in Kent, Manchester, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, Stockton-on-Tees, Theale in Berkshire, Truro, Worcester, Bangor in Gwynedd, Cardiff, Swansea, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Inverness will also be affected.
The regional offices carry out administrative functions such as arranging trade plates for garages, vehicle inspections and personalised registration mark transfers.
Ten of the 39 offices affected by the announcement are also home to regional enforcement centres.
'Choice and flexibility'
Mr Penning said: "Centralising the DVLA's services is the first crucial step towards making more of its transactions available online, allowing people to deal with the DVLA at their chosen time and place.
"This will mean quicker turnarounds and meet our customers' growing needs."
He said the centralising of services will provide "much more choice and flexibility around how and when motorists deal with the DVLA," including electronically and in partnership with others.
DVLA chief executive Simon Tse said the proposals were a response to the fact that "times change and customers' needs change".
"It's essential that we move with the times and make the best use of our services and experience to make sure we give the motor industry and the general public a service that is fit for the 21st Century."
As part of the proposed changes, a wider range of services will be introduced in Northern Ireland. Motorists there do not currently have access to all vehicle services available elsewhere, such as being able to tax a vehicle online.
Last November, PCS claimed that it had learned of a plan to close 39 DVLA offices from a leaked government document - but the DVLA said no decision had been made at the time.
The PCS said the plans would be "fiercely" resisted, with industrial action very likely.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "With unemployment and inflation remaining high, these cuts to local communities are outrageous and unnecessary, and will further weaken economies crying out for investment.
"DVLA senior managers have previously denied this is what they were planning, so to announce it just two weeks before Christmas is insulting and devastating for staff."