Government motoring agencies - the user perspective - Transport Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Effect of structural reorganisation on service users

1.   It is important that the Government monitors the outcomes of reform of the motoring agencies to ensure the expected benefits are realised. (Paragraph 11)

2.  We recommend that the Government make clear its long term agenda for change by setting out clearly its overall strategy for provision of motoring services. This should cover all its motoring agencies, demonstrate how the strategy will make services more unified and deliver efficiencies and cost savings, and set out a timeline for the further changes needed to bring about a more unified approach. It should also justify the different approaches it is promoting for the three agencies and explain the impact the Department's work on shared services will have on the agencies. The Department should consider whether it needs three separate agencies to achieve the streamlined, largely electronic services it provides. We would like the Government to expand on its plans for private sector involvement in the provision of motoring services and how it sees the long term future for its agencies as monopoly public service providers. The Government should also make clear the extent to which efficiency savings will benefit both the users of services through reduced costs and fees, and the general taxpayer in the form of savings to the Exchequer. (Paragraph 11)

3.  The DVSA should provide us with a reassurance that the wealth of experience built up by its vehicle inspectors, examiners and other staff is not being lost in the course of the merger and the changes it is making to authorised testing facilities. Similarly, the DVLA should provide us with a reassurance that it is managing the risks around the loss of knowledge and experience as it closes local branches. (Paragraph 12)

4.  We are concerned about the six-month delay in issuing the OJEU notice for the VCA's private sector partner and seek assurances from the Government that a partner will be announced on schedule in January 2015. If there are any further delays to plans to recruit a private sector partner for the VCA, we would expect the Government to write to us. (Paragraph 13)

Support for businesses

5.  The DVLA and DVSA respond effectively to the needs of individuals, who usually undertake only two or three transactions each year but account for the bulk of the agencies' business. However, on the basis of the evidence we received they do not adequately meet the needs of businesses, some of whom undertake hundreds of vehicle or driver transactions in each year. The agencies need to develop a better understanding of the needs of their business users, particularly small fleet owners and operators who play an important part in economic prosperity. We recommend that DVLA and DVSA develop specific strategies for responding to the needs of business customers. In setting out a longer-term strategy for the future of its motoring agencies, the Government should consider the needs of business users as well as those of individual motorists. (Paragraph 16)

Driver training

6.  If businesses and drivers must commit time and resource to mandatory training then that training must be worthwhile and effective. At the present time this is not the case. (Paragraph 21)

7.  Under the current regulations the Government could not add modules on vulnerable road users to the Driver CPC or compel drivers to select them. If the Government unilaterally amended regulations to make such modules compulsory drivers from other countries using roads in the UK would not have equivalent training. We recommend that the Government lobby the European Commission to introduce an amending Directive to require the inclusion of a compulsory new training module in the Driver CPC focused on vulnerable road users. (Paragraph 21)

Digital services

8.  Digital services must cater for all users not just individual motorists and the agencies' assisted digital strategies must help and support those who cannot access services online. The Department needs to ensure that its motoring agencies have viable plans for assisted access, which recognise the distinct needs of individuals and businesses. The motoring agencies must ensure a good standard of accessibility to their services is provided to users who are unable to benefit from investment in digital services. They should also monitor outcomes and customer feedback to ensure that their assisted digital strategies are working. (Paragraph 27)

Extending digital services

9.  Digital services are clearly popular and they have the potential to reduce costs for the taxpayer, motorists and businesses. We recognise the need for the multi-channel approach that the agencies are adopting; and lessons learned from the progress made so far should inform the planning and roll-out of new digital services. Concerns about digital exclusion and access to services for people who cannot use online services are valid. The move to digital provision and recent organisational changes (for example, the closure of DVLA local branches) have the potential to make access to some services much more difficult and costly for certain groups of people and some businesses. The Department and the agencies need to show how they are addressing these concerns and what steps they are taking to ensure that there is alternative provision for those unable or unwilling to use digital services, especially in the context of changes to local networks and branches. The Department should also consider the extent to which reliance on the Post Office and other providers is an adequate means of dealing with digital exclusion. In addition, digital services must work seamlessly with those that will continue to require some degree of physical presence. (Paragraph 30)

Copycat websites

10.  It is illegal to deliberately mislead the public or obtain money by fraud; the agencies providing services on behalf of the Government should do everything practicable to prevent users of their services from being misled or becoming the victims of fraud. Transport for London's agreement with the DVLA to alert drivers using unofficial websites is an interesting model that the Department should evaluate to see how well the approach works and whether it can be extended to other services. It will be important to understand how much any alternative approach costs to administer, what effect it may have on fees for users of services and whether it results in fewer motorists using unofficial sites. In such an evaluation it will be important for the Department to consider the effect of the scheme on unofficial operators and any unintended consequences for legitimate providers of value-added services. We also ask the GDS to provide specific details of its progress so far in identifying and alerting search engines to misleading websites offering services to motorists, and to report on what enforcement action has been taken against such sites. (Paragraph 33)

Sharing vehicle keeper data with parking enforcement companies

11.  Protecting personal data is an issue that people feel strongly about and the DVLA needs do more to explain to the public the legal basis for its sharing of personal data and the steps that are being taken to deal with private parking companies and local authorities caught misusing parking data; the Government needs to ensure there is more transparency and better accountability on this issue. We recommend that the DVLA and Department for Transport consider whether each vehicle keeper should be told when their data is released and what more can be done to help target persistent repeat offenders. The Government needs to be mindful of the costs of any changes and we would expect it to consult widely on any proposals it brings forward, including how the costs of any such scheme could be met. (Paragraph 42)

12.  The DVLA should not subsidise private parking companies by providing data at a loss, if anything it should err on the side of making a small surplus. As it reviews its fees and income, the DVLA should consider whether efficiencies can be made to reduce the cost of processing these requests. If not, the DVLA should adjust the fee for the provision of personal data to ensure costs are covered. The DVLA should make clear on its website how the costs are calculated. It should also consider whether the enhanced provision of information to drivers, as recommended above, could be financed through the fee (Paragraph 43)

Policy changes that increase reliance on the quality, accuracy and effective sharing of data

13.  Interoperability of systems and the ability to share data with other agencies needs to be given a high priority by all the motoring agencies. The motoring agencies should think carefully about what data their users need, how this can be shared effectively and what safeguards need to be in place. They should assess policy changes to understand what impact they may have on data sharing. The need to share and exchange data needs to be balanced with the protection of personal data. (Paragraph 48)

Working with enforcement agencies

14.  Offenders need to be caught and dangerous vehicles must be removed from the road network. An intelligence-led approach to enforcement that targets the most serious non-compliance and the repeat offenders depends on access to and the effective sharing of data. We view this as essential to reduce the likelihood of traffic accidents and save lives. The Department should drive forward a culture change in the approach to sharing data between the motoring agencies and their enforcement partners and should identify the steps that need to be taken to ensure data is accurate and can be shared in a timely way to support the work of the agencies and enforcement bodies. (Paragraph 53)

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Prepared 7 October 2014