As with all public services, DVLA was severely impacted throughout the pandemic, with it being necessary to send many staff home for their safety. As an organisation which receives more than 60,000 items of mail every single day, this understandably caused a backlog to begin developing.
These problems were compounded when the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union chose to undertake six months of industrial action. During the strike, PCS deliberately targeted the parts of the organisation that would have the greatest impact on customers, such as the drivers’ medical team of DVLA which was targeted for the whole of August 2021. This unnecessary strike, which ultimately collapsed due to a lack of support among DVLA employees, added an estimated 400,000 items to the backlog.
At its peak, the total number of paper applications outstanding at DVLA reached approximately 1.2 million in September 2021, not including the 400,000 applications that will be in the system at any normal time. This has now reduced to around 410,100. Without the strike, I can confidently say that the backlog of standard applications would, by now, have been cleared. As it stands, the backlog of driver transactions – excluding medical cases – will be eliminated by the end of this month.
This has been achieved through a number of measures, including the recruitment of extra staff, acquiring additional office space, asking staff to work overtime on weekends and evenings, and making more services available online. It is important to note that DVLA’s extensive suite of online services remain the quickest and easiest way to make an application and the majority of applications to the DVLA are made online. These online services have worked well throughout the pandemic, are not subject to delays and customers usually receive their documents within a few days.
I will continue to highlight the concerns of many constituents around this with colleagues in DfT going forward, as we continue to gradually ease the backlog following Covid.