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Community / Time for a parliamentary inquiry into DVSA, Carmichael says

Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Shetland News

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) after the agency experienced more issues in Shetland.

Theory driving tests have been unable to take place at new centres at Mareel in Lerwick, Whalsay and Mid Yell due to a technical fault with a DVSA supplier.

It may only be until mid-November for theory tests to start in the two isles locations, and the hope is for the Mareel base to be operating again this month.

Theory tests were also cancelled in Orkney.

Carmichael has regularly spoken out in recent months against the DVSA, which is a UK Government agency – in particular its unpopular proposal to move motorcycle and HGV testing to Scatsta Airport.

He has today (Friday) written to chair of the House of Commons’ transport select committee to ask for an investigation into the operations at the DVSA.

Carmichael also raised the agency’s the role in long-term plans to increase the numbers of UK HGV lorry drivers.

“We may be facing a new Winter of Discontent if the government does not get on top of shortages and transport woes – and securing sufficient HGV-licensed drivers will be a vital part in that.

“Unfortunately for us all, such long-term development of HGV drivers in the UK will be reliant on the work of the DVSA,” the Liberal Democrat said.

“We know all too well in the isles about the problems within the DVSA, its attitude towards local communities and its frankly chaotic internal workings. The most recent fiasco has been the cancellation of testing services this month with no notice and pitiful excuses.

“We have a right to question if an agency with this many problems of culture and competency is fit for purpose when it comes to combatting the national shortage in HGV drivers.

“That is why I have written to the chair of the transport select committee, calling on him to scrutinise the work of the DVSA and to challenge it to reform internally and externally. Sunshine is the best disinfectant – it will be to all our benefit, locally and nationally, to get the DVSA functioning as it should.”

Regarding the cancelled theory tests in Shetland, a spokesperson for the DVSA said: “We are very sorry that some theory tests at the Shetland theory test centres have been unable to go ahead.

“This was as a result of IT equipment issues experienced by our contractor, Reed in Partnership.

“We are working hard with them to increase availability.

“In the meantime, we are encouraging affected candidates to claim out of pocket expenses if necessary, and have contacted them directly to advise them on how to book a new test.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this will have caused our customers, and hope to rectify the situation soon.”

While the DVSA previously said the Scatsta testing site plans had fallen through, a planning application for changing the use of the site later emerged.

DVSA director of operations north Peter Hearn said in response to a request for the latest on the plans: “We are committed to providing customers with the best possible service whilst balancing costs and managing public money.

“We have submitted a planning application for the council’s vacant site at Scatsta, as we are keen to exhaust every option to have a testing site in Shetland. We look forward to receiving the council’s decision on our planning application.”