The DVLA in Swansea
|Headquarters||Swansea, Wales, UK|
|Parent agency||Department for Transport|
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA; Welsh: Asiantaeth Trwyddedu Gyrwyr a Cherbydau) is the organisation of the UK government responsible for maintaining a database of drivers in Great Britain and a database of vehicles for the entire United Kingdom. Its counterpart for drivers in Northern Ireland is the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA). The agency issues driving licences, organises collection of vehicle excise duty (also known as road tax and road fund licence) and sells personalised registrations.
The DVLA is based in Swansea, Wales, with a prominent 16-storey building in Clase and offices in Swansea Vale. It was previously known as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre (DVLC). The agency previously had a network of 39 offices around Great Britain, known as the Local Office Network, where users could attend to apply for licences and transact other business, but throughout the course of 2013, the local offices were gradually closed down, and all had been closed by December 2013. The agency's work is consequently fully centralised in Swansea, with the majority of users having to transact remotely - by post or (for some transactions) by phone.
DVLA introduced Electronic Vehicle Licensing (EVL) in 2004, allowing customers to pay vehicle excise duty online and by telephone. However, customers still have the option to tax their vehicles via the Post Office. A seven-year contract enabling the Post Office to continue to process car tax applications was agreed in November 2012, with the option of a three-year extension.
Originally, vehicle registration was the responsibility of Borough and County councils throughout Great Britain, a system created by the Motor Car Act 1903. In 1965 a centralised licensing system was set up at a new Swansea Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre (DVLC), taking over licences issued from County/Borough councils. A new purpose built centre was then built on the site of the old Clase Farm on Longview Road, Swansea in 1969.
In April 1990, the DVLC was renamed as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), becoming an executive agency of Department for Transport.
British Forces Germany civilian vehicles
Diplomatic and consular vehicles
Official diplomatic and consular vehicles are registered with the DVLA on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The vehicle register held by DVLA is used in many ways. For example, by the DVLA itself to identify untaxed vehicles, and by outside agencies to identify keepers of cars entering central London who have not paid the congestion charge, or who exceed speed limits on a road that has speed cameras by matching the cars to their keepers utilising the DVLA database. The current DVLA vehicle register was built by EDS under a £5 million contract signed in 1996, with a planned implementation date in October 1998, though actual implementation was delayed by a year. It uses a client–server architecture and uses the vehicle identification number, rather than the registration plate, as the primary key to track vehicles, eliminating the possibility of having multiple registrations for a single vehicle.
The Vehicle Identity Check (VIC) was introduced to help reduce vehicle crime. It was intended to deter criminals from disguising stolen cars with the identity of written off or scrapped vehicles, however this scheme was abandoned in October 2015. Under the scheme, when an insurance company wrote off a car it would notify the DVLA. This notification would set a "VIC marker" on the vehicle record on the DVLA database. An identity check might then be required before the vehicle tax could be renewed or before any amendments could be made to the logbook.
DVLA database records are used by commercial vehicle check companies to offer a comprehensive individual car check to prospective purchasers.
However, the accuracy of the data held remains a continuing problem. Anyone can request information from the database if they purport to have just cause to need it, for a fee of £2.50.
The database of drivers, developed in the late 1980s, holds details of some 42 million driving licence holders in the UK. It is used to produce driving licences and to assist bodies such as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, police and courts in the enforcement of legislation concerning driving entitlements and road safety.
The DVLA revealed in December 2012 that it had temporarily banned 294 public bodies, including local councils and police forces, for not using their access to the database correctly between 2006 and 2012. A further 38 bodies were banned permanently during the period.
Staff of the DVLA are predominantly female whereas other parts of the Department for Transport are predominantly male. Starting salaries as of 2008 were just over £12,500. In November 2007, a Public Accounts Committee report criticised the "amazingly high" levels of sick leave among staff at the DVLA, where employees took an average of three weeks per year of sick leave. The report said overall sickness leave at the DfT and its seven agencies averaged 10.4 working days per full-time employee in 2005, which they calculated as costing taxpayers £24 million. While sick leave rates at the department itself and four of its agencies were below average—at the DVLA and DSA, which together employ more than 50% of all DfT staff—they were "significantly higher". Committee chairman Edward Leigh said it was surprising the agencies could "function adequately". In 2008 DVLA staff went on a one-day strike over pay inequality arguing they should receive similar salaries to other employees of the Department for Transport. The most recent level of sickness absence for 2012/13 was 6.7 days.
In 2006, 120,000 to 130,000 vehicle registration certificates went missing. A BBC investigation in 2010 found that vehicles worth £13 million had been stolen using the documents in the 18 months preceding the investigation. Around ten cars are found each week to have forged log books and police said it would be decades before they were all recovered.
DVLA letter bombs
On 7 February 2007, a letter bomb was sent to the DVLA in Swansea and injured four people. It is suspected that this is part of a group of letter bombs sent to other organisations that deal with the administration of motoring charges and offences, such as Capita in central London, which was targeted a few days earlier. Miles Cooper, aged 27, a school caretaker, was arrested on 19 February 2007, and charged on 22 February. The DVLA have since installed X-ray machines in all post opening areas to reduce the effectiveness of any further attacks.
Wrong confidential records on surveys
In December 2007, it was revealed that while sending out surveys to 1,215 drivers, the DVLA sent out confidential details, but to the wrong owners. The error occurred during the sending out of routine surveys, and was not discovered until members of the public contacted the DVLA to notify them of the error.
In 2009 BBC's Watchdog reported that entitlements, specifically the entitlement to drive a motorcycle, were being lost from reissued driving licences. In 2005 the same programme highlighted drivers who had lost entitlements to drive heavy goods vehicles in a similar way.
Sale of details
In 2010 it was revealed the DVLA had sold drivers' details from the database to certain private parking enforcement companies run by individuals with criminal records. The DVLA sells details to companies for £2.50 per record, but it was found the agency had sold some of these to a business which had been previously fined for unfair business practices.
The DVLA handled 12,775 complaints in the year 2015/16, of which it failed to resolve 14.9% at first contact. Overall complaints for that year were down by 6.5%. The DVLA customer service excellence standard was retained. No details were provided on how this was measured. Customer satisfaction levels varied between 76% and 97% in the four categories surveyed; vehicle registration, driver licence renewal, vehicle taxation, driver medical transactions. No data was provided in respect of complaints about the SORN scheme or other fines levied.
On 13 June 2022, the Information Commissioner published an Opinion in which he stated the DVLA had been releasing the details of vehicle keepers to parking companies under the wrong ground. The DVLA had been releasing these under Article 6(1)(c) UK GDPR (legal duty) but the ICO advised the DVLA should have relied on Article 6(1)(e) (public task). The significance of this is that, unlike Article 6(1)(c), Article 6(1)(e) includes a right to object to this processing, as set out in Article 21. However, the Information Commissioner also stated the DVLA can refuse objections under Article 21 because they are processing the information "for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims".
The Information Commissioner's Office's website states: "retrospectively switching lawful basis is likely to be inherently unfair to the individual and lead to breaches of accountability and transparency requirements".
Unacceptable Levels of Service
On 17 March 2023, a report by the Public Accounts Committee was published which was critical of the DVLA. Three million paper applications for driving licences involving fitness to drive resulted in long delays. This resulted in some people losing their jobs; others lost income and became isolated and depressed. This was made worse by difficulties making contact with the DVLA. The committee found that between April 2020 and March 2022 around 60 million calls about driving licences went unanswered, 94% of the total the DVLA receive.
In popular culture
The DVLC in Swansea is regularly referred to in the BBC political sitcom Yes, Minister, usually as a remote and unfavorable location. Bernard Woolley is regularly threatened with reassignment there. In the episode "Big Brother", Jim Hacker is scheduled to give an address there.
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- "Freedom of Information Request relating to EVL". dft.gov.uk. Department for Transport. Archived from the original on 18 December 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
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- "History of road safety, The Highway Code and the driving test". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014.
- "20 pictures that tell the story of the DVLA in Swansea". 9 March 2015. Archived from the original on 23 August 2017.
- "History of road safety, The Highway Code and the driving test". Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency. Crown. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
- Oates, John (20 January 2010). "DVLA makes £44m flogging drivers' details". The Register. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
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- "DVLA doubles annual contract spending". Kable. 23 November 2009. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- "DVLA strike causes widespread disruption". pcs.org.uk. Archived from the original on 4 June 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
- DVLA sick leave 'amazingly high' BBC News - 20 November 2007
- "DVLA's annual report 2012 to 2013". GOV.UK.
- Kemp, Phil (31 January 2010). "Theft of DVLA log books fuels cars scam". BBC Radio 5 live. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- "Drivers sent wrong DVLA details". BBC News. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
- "DVLA Removing Licence Entitlements". BBC Watchdog. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "DVLA sells details to convicted criminal". The Telegraph. 1 April 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- DVLA annual report and accounts 2015-2016
- Jones, Rupert (25 June 2022). "Parking fines: DVLA breached law over sharing drivers' details". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
- "Driving licence delays caused 'lost jobs and money'". BBC News. 17 March 2023. Retrieved 19 March 2023.