Northern Ireland

DVA jobs: Political anger at Coleraine to Swansea transfer

DVA jobs are going from Coleraine, County Londonderry
Image caption DVA jobs are going from County Hall in Coleraine

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.

The move has been widely condemned by Northern Ireland politicians. Here is a selection of the reaction.

Northern Ireland environment minister Mark H Durkan

"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.

"I have consistently made it clear to ministers in London that there is no justification for the centralisation of these services and jobs in Swansea. In these representations I have had the full support of all of my ministerial colleagues and of MLAs, councillors and others right across the political spectrum.

"This decision represents the loss of funding for over 300 jobs, 235 of which are in Coleraine and an assessment by independent economists estimates that the knock-on impact will equate to the loss of around 500 jobs and will remove £22m from the economy.

"The first and deputy first ministers emphasised this point to David Cameron at the economic conference in Belfast in October, pointing out the inconsistency of the London government promising to assist the executive in stimulating and developing the economy of Northern Ireland on the one hand and imposing a crushing blow like this with the other. It begs the question what assistance are they really providing to the north's economy beyond honeyed words."

UK Roads Minister Stephen Hammond

"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.

"DVA staff will continue to provide support to customers until the end of the year while the new services are fully bedded in.

"I would like to thank the staff in DVA for their continued support, and their hard work in delivering vehicle registration and licensing services to Northern Ireland motorists over the years."

Gregory Campbell, DUP East Londonderry MP

"This is deeply disappointing and devastating news for the 300 DVA employees.

"It is appalling that those who have done so much in being heavily involved in the campaign to retain the jobs are treated like this, everything possible that could be done was done.

"We took a petition of over 30,000 signatures to Downing Street and the Department of Transport in London.

"The first minister raised the issue directly with the prime minister as well. It was raised repeatedly at all levels of government and had cross-party support."

John Dallat, SDLP East Londonderry MLA

"There are no depths the British government will not stoop to when they want to offload bad news involving Northern Ireland.

"There are no limits to the disrespect they are prepared to show to civil servants who have served the public faithfully through the darkest days of the Troubles and since.

"This announcement was clearly planned when they knew Mark H Durkan, the minister for the environment, was on his way to America for the Saint Patrick's Day events. They did it when they knew that just about everyone was away.

"The workers are 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."

Cathal Ó hOisín, Sinn Féin East Londonderry MLA

"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.

"The DVLA office was the biggest employer in the constituency with over 300 people employed in this office alone who will now be unemployed with little prospect of other employment.

"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.

"While the British government talks about retraining and serving the needs of the workers the simple fact is that they have been unceremoniously dumped on the dole queue."

David Harding, Ulster Unionist mayor of Coleraine

"This is the worst possible outcome for the staff in the DVA. Whilst we had been aware for some time that they faced the serious threat of closure, many people had hoped that the convincing case for retaining the local services put forward over recent years, most especially in the public consultation last year, was enough to protect the Northern Ireland service.

"The 300 staff, of which 235 are based in Coleraine, will feel utterly let down and bitterly betrayed by this decision.

"They were providing an excellent and efficient service and were consistently achieving brilliant customer satisfaction levels.

"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, Nipsa public services union assistant secretary

"It is hugely disappointing that this coalition government is ignoring the views of 40,000 members of the public, the business community, MPs from every party and of course the concerns of staff.

"The government knows full well that this decision will cost the local economy upwards of £22m and despite some noises about avoiding redundancies there will be real fears that posts will not be found for all DVA staff.

"Given we presented evidence to the transport minister about the impact on Coleraine and the surrounding areas, and told him how 6000 jobs had been lost there since 2007, it is clear that he is prepared to sacrifice the social and economic wellbeing of the community; this amounts to economic vandalism.

I have spoken to staff today, some of whom are in tears, they are distraught because they know there are few jobs in the Causeway Coast area."

Glyn Roberts, Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive

"This is an outrageous decision which will have a severe impact on the local economy in Coleraine and throughout Northern Ireland.

"The loss of 300 jobs means 300 families spending a lot less with local traders and even more pressure on our retail sector.

"A estimated loss of £22m from our local economy as a result of this decision will not help our very slow economic recovery"

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