A huge DVLA backlog resulted in more than a million motorists waiting for their licences to be processed last month.
The Commons transport committee published figures which showed 1,1million people who applied by post had still not received their documents last month.
Of these, 254,396 applications were older than ten weeks.
The data also revealed that in January 3.1million calls by drivers, perhaps chasing up their documents, went unanswered, possibly due to a high absence list due to the Omicron Covid variant.
By contrast, 336,000 calls were answered. The DVLA came under huge fire over the fiasco.
DVLA’s chief executive, Julie Lennard, received a letter which forced committee chairman Huw Merriman to state: “Far too many drivers are still waiting far too long to have their licences processed. The situation is urgent.”
Staff at the DVLA’s Swansea headquarters who have largely been working at home during the pandemic means that there’s been a huge backlog of mail waiting to be opened, affecting paper applications the most.
The dire situation was made worse due to the fact that there was also nearly two months’ worth of strike action by staff who claimed that the building was not Covid secure.
More than 254,000 people waiting more than ten weeks are largely drivers who have illness or have been ill during the pandemic and need to be cleared as fit to drive again.
They would need to visit a GP or doctor who declares them healthy enough to get back behind the wheel. This certificate is then sent to the DVLA to give the green light.
However what has held up the process is that GPs are seeing less people face-to-face, as well as DVLA staff striking and being out of the office.
In an earlier letter to Mr Merriman, Ms Lennard said: “The paper application backlogs that built up during the first national lockdown were quickly reduced over the summer of 2020.
“Our progress following the second Covid wave was significantly impacted by the 58 days of industrial action orchestrated by the PCS [union] who targeted the areas of the business which had the biggest impact on customers.
“Despite this, backlogs had been reducing at a steady rate since September when the action brought by PCS ended.
“However, the Omicron variant has had an impact due to the increased number of staff absences (in line with higher rates of infection in the local community and indeed across the UK) in December and January.’ She said the situation was also exacerbated by the 11-month extension given to all driving licences expiring between 1 February and 31 December 2020.”
This was to allow motorists to continue to drive and keep essential supply chains moving during the first wave of Covid.
However, it led to a flood of licence renewals being received in 2021.
400,000 paper applications being processed at any one time is something the DVLA building is experiencing, receiving around 60,000 letters a day. The 1.1million applications pending last month was down from 1.6million in September last year.
The vast majority of applications are done online, which are still being turned around within days.
Ms Lennard’s letter added: “The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for DVLA and I am very proud of the way in which my staff have risen to the unprecedented challenges placed on our service by both the pandemic and the associated industrial action.”
The DVLA said that since last month the backlog in paper applications had fallen to around 900,000.
A spokesman said: “The backlog is reducing every day and has already halved since its peak during the pandemic, after we took action by recruiting more staff, increasing overtime and opening new office space.
“Our online services continue to work as normal and customers should use them if they can.”
3 thoughts on “DVLA backlog causes delays in licence processing for a million drivers”
The number of postal applications is made worse because you cannot use the new UK passport for online driving licence applications as there is now no requirement for it to be signed. This needs to be sorted as the situation will get worse as more passports are issued or renewed
My sister has waited 13mths for her licence to be returned after voluntarily surrendering her licence following a one-off health incident in 2020. After 6mths she got medical clearance to drive so initially posted in the application with the relevant medical reports. Over the months, she received the same auto-responses when contacting DVSA for updates. She then re-applied online thinking this would speed it up. She is now losing hope of ever driving again together with the independence this gives her. Shocking!!
It’s about those at DVLA got off their collective backsides and sorted this mess out. So many people need their licences processed it’s fiasco. I need to renew as I’m 70 this year, but because I want keep my cat C and D licence (I worked for them why shouldn’t I keep them) I have to do it by post and have had to a medical for them. Typical government department, and you can’t get through on the phone to ask about you’re application.