Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Driving Standards Agency Evidence to the Environment, Transport & Regional Affairs Committee

3.1  AIM, KEY OBJECTIVES AND MANAGEMENT

  3.1.1  The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) was established as an executive agency in April 1990.

  3.1.2  The Agency's primary aim is to promote road safety in Great Britain through the advancement of driving standards, in particular by testing drivers and driving instructors fairly and efficiently. This flows from the Department's objective to improve health and safety by reducing risks from work activity, travel and the environment.

  "Driver" and "driving" should be read to include motorcycle riders and riding except where the sense requires otherwise.

  DETR Framework for the Future: three-year strategy, January 1999

  3.1.3  The Agency's core activities are to:

    —  conduct the statutory driving tests for learner car, lorry and bus drivers and for learner motorcyclists,

    —  operate the Register of Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs),

    —  supervise the statutory training scheme for learner motorcyclists, and

    —  administer the voluntary register of large goods vehicle driving instructors.

  3.1.4  The statutory framework for the first three activities is set out in Appendix A. The Framework Document, published in September 2000, is attached as document DSA1.

  3.1.5  The Sub-committee has previously considered the work of the Agency as part of its inquiry into Young and Newly Qualified Drivers: Standards and Training.

  The Committee's 19th Report (paragraphs 28-33 refer specifically to "Access to the driving test")

STRATEGY

  3.1.6  A rolling medium term strategy for the Agency is published in its Corporate Plan—a copy of the 1999-2003 Corporate Plan, published in 1999, is attached as document DSA2.

  3.1.7  The Government's Road Safety Strategy document—Tomorrow's roads—safer for everyone recognised that improvements in driver training, testing and behaviour would offer the prospect of significant reductions in deaths and injuries, less vehicle damage and a healthier environment for all. DSA's role has therefore been cast more broadly to help to deliver those improvements.

CORE OBJECTIVES

  3.1.8  The strategy is reflected in DSA's core objectives, as set out in the Framework Document:

    —  provide a centre of excellence for driver training and driving standards, ensuring high and consistent standards in the assessment of drivers and driving instructors in Great Britain;

    —  provide high quality modernised services, based on an understanding of customer needs, working closely with other parts of Government, particularly the Driver and Vehicle Operator (DVO) Group, to deliver joined-up services;

    —  improve continually the efficiency and effectiveness of the Agency's operations in accordance with Government policy and best business practice;

    —  achieve the annual fee and return on capital employed (ROCE) targets;

    —  ensure that everyone in DSA is developed and trained with the skills they need to achieve the Agency's objectives.

BUSINESS PLAN

  3.1.9  Working towards the core objectives year on year, the Agency sets annual objectives that are agreed with Ministers and are published in a Business Plan. A copy of the Business Plan 2000-01 is attached as document DSA3.

  3.1.10  The Secretary of State approves the plan.

MINISTERIAL ADVISORY BOARD

  3.1.11  An Advisory Board is appointed by the Secretary of State. It meets at least three times a year. The Chief Executive attends.

Agency Staffing

  3.1.12  The Agency is managed by the Chief Executive, who has appointed key senior managers to a Corporate Management Team to assist him. An organisation chart showing the Agency's management structure is at Appendix B.

  3.1.13  The Agency has a staff of some 1,700, the majority of whom are driving examiners, who work from over 400 practical driving test centres across Great Britain6. Executive and administrative staff located at five Area Offices deal with customer service, examiner deployment and local estate management issues. There are two call centres that deal with applications for practical tests. The Agency's headquarters is in Nottingham.

Changes to the Driving Test

  3.1.14  Since July 1996, the driving test has consisted of two parts—a theory and a practical test. Delivery of the theory test is contracted out to the private sector. The initial contract was with Drive Safe.The theory test was originally paper-based, but in January 2000 DSA introduced a new IT-based test. This test is delivered on behalf of DSA by Prometric. There are 158 theory test centres across Great Britain. Prometric's headquarters and theory test call centre are in Salford, Manchester. Transition between the two contractors was achieved successfully without any major disruption in the service provided to candidates.

Volumes of Activity

  3.1.15  In 1999-2000, the Agency carried out almost 1.18 million car tests, 102,000 motorcycle tests, 57,500 lorry and bus tests, and over 1.12 million theory tests. In the same period, 26,420 qualifying tests were conducted, leading to the admission of 2,264 new driving instructors onto the ADI Register and 6,544 ADIs were check tested to ensure they continued to meet the required instructional standards. There are some 29,000 ADIs on the Register.

Financial Management

  3.1.16  DSA was established as a Trading Fund in 1997. A full description of the Agency's financial arrangements and commitments under the terms of the Trading Fund Order is given at Appendix C. The costs of operations are met through fees set for individual services, which are reviewed annually. A schedule of current fees is at AppendixD. A full financial account is given in the Agency's Annual Report and Accounts—a copy of the 1999-2000 Report is attached as document DSA4.

  3.1.17  The Agency has an annual turnover of around £80 million. A financial summary for the years 1995-96 to 1999-2000 is given at Appendix E.

5 DETR, March 20006  Driver training and testing are reserved matters under the devolution arrangements with the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. The Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency undertake the equivalent functions in Northern Ireland.

3.2  PERFORMANCE AGAINST KEY TARGETS


  3.2.1  Targets are set for the timely and efficient delivery of customer services, in particular for telephone call response times and average waiting times for tests. These targets are reviewed annually and, where appropriate, are redefined. For example, the number of key targets for 2000-01 has been reduced to aid clarity for customers and staff. The Agency will review its approach to target setting again in 2001-02.

Performance 1998-2000


  3.2.2  Performance against key targets set in the Business Plan as reported in the Annual Report and Accounts:

  
1998-99 Target
Outturn
1999-2000 Target
Outturn
Quality and Service
  
  
  
  
1.percentage of candidates to be satisfied with overall level of service received
80
90
80
99 theory 95 practical
2.percentage of candidates to have theory test booking appointment at preferred centre within two weeks of preferred date
95
95.3
95
91.4
3.national average waiting time for practical car test will not exceed x weeks
6
5.6
6
7.3
4.practical test appointments will be available within 10 weeks at x per cent of permanent driving test centres
99
99.5
99
91.2
5.DSA to keep x per cent of theory test appointments
99.5
99.9
99.5
99.6
6.DSA to keep x per cent of practical test appointments in place 2 days prior to appointment date
99.5
99.7
99.5
99.3
7.x per cent of incoming calls to booking centres will access call handling system without hearing engaged tone
n/a
n/a
95
51
8.after routing through call handling x per cent of calls will be answered by a human voice in 20 seconds
n/a
n/a
90
78
Financial
  
  
  
  
9.achieve x per cent return on capital employed
6
22.6
6
15.4
10.average weighted fee increase no more than RPI
RPI
+0.7%
RPI
-1.5%

PERFORMANCE 1998-99

  3.2.3  The Agency only achieved five of its nine key targets, including a national average waiting time of under six weeks for car practical tests. Those that were missed related to telephone answering. The Sub-committee has severely criticised the Agency's delivery of services during this period. That criticism has been accepted, and the Agency has sought to make improvements.

  3.2.4  In brief, the Agency experienced difficulties in early 1999 when new IT systems were introduced and demand for practical tests increased prior to the introduction of the enhanced test in May that year. The IT systems proved unreliable, only becoming fully functional in October 1999 though still not performing sufficiently quickly or reliably to fulfil the performance target of 99 per cent availability. The Agency has pressed the IT contract provider to make the necessary improvements to deliver reliability and availability, and has instigated claims for damages arising from the system failures.

  3.2.5  In addition, to reduce backlogs, extra staff were recruited to conduct tests and to handle test applications.

PERFORMANCE 1999-2000

  3.2.6  The continuing problems with the booking system meant that the Agency met only four of its nine key targets during this period. But service delivery did improve throughout the year, with additional examiners being deployed and greater reliability delivered from the IT systems—by January 2000 the DTCS was performing at an acceptable level for 97 per cent of the time. Also, call centres were opened on Saturdays, giving candidates a wider choice of when to call to make their test application. These measures meant that the targets were not missed by a great margin. Efforts continued to try achieve the required levels of service from the DTCS, details are given in Appendix F

  3.2.7  Unfortunately, also that year,the target for theory test call answering was not achieved because the number of calls and the average call length both increased in January 2000 when the new IT-based test was introduced.

KEY TARGETS FOR 2000-01

  3.2.8  In response to a report on the Agency's service by Pannell Kerr Forster (see section 3.7, below) and in agreement with the DSA Advisory Board and Ministers, DSA has sharpened the focus and reduced the number of its key targets to 10. The previous range of practical test customer satisfaction targets have been combined and extended to all customers; and a new efficiency target has been added. The appointment availability target has been enhanced and continues to be monitored with the telephone response target and all other customer service targets. The two financial targets for the year have been set to contribute to achieve a five year average; make a 2 per cent return on capital employed and make no increase in fees for statutory activities during 2000-01.

PERFORMANCE TO DATE IN 2000-01

  3.2.9  Performance against these revised targets for the period April-July is shown in the table below. Overall there have been improvements compared with 1999-2000. Though the waiting time target had not been achieved to the end of July; it was, however, met for September. The Agency is taking steps to improve performance in this area; some 80 additional driving examiners have been recruited and will be deployed, following training, from September. In addition, there is an ongoing recruitment campaign to take on over 50 additional examiners by the end of this financial year. It is intended to reach an average wait of five weeks before the end of the year, to pave the way for improving the standard of service in 2001. But the target of an overall average wait of six weeks is unlikely to be met for the year.

  3.2.10  Also, in recent months problems have arisen with the administration of the theory test. These relate to the incorrect marking of some test papers, and to the failure of checks and procedures which should be undertaken to prevent underage candidates from taking the test. Details of the problems and DSA's actions to resolve them are given in Appendix G. It should be noted that, despite those problems, the testing and booking IT systems are stable and high levels of candidate satisfaction with the theory test service continue to be recorded each month.

  3.2.11  DSA did not make any fee increases for statutory services for 2000-01.

  3.2.12  Overall demand for statutory tests has been above the planned levels for the year to August. The revised forecast demand for car tests for the full year is now 1.22 million compared with a planned level of 1.12 million. Similarly for motorcycle tests the forecast annual demand is 110,000 compared to 101,000. There is a slight shortfall in the forecast demand for lorry and bus tests at 59,000 compared to a planned 62,000.

  3.2.13  The differences shown in the table below for the planned, current and forecast return on capital employed (ROCE) target are a function of the additional fee revenues received in respect of this increased demand. This figure is very volatile because the surplus DSA plans for is quite small compared to the Agency's turnover; a slight change in levels of activity will have a proportionately larger effect on ROCE. For example, a 1 per cent increase in turnover could lead to a £400,000 increase in profit and a 100 per cent increase in ROCE. Although the ROCE for the year to date is high, the final outturn figure will be considerably less due to the seasonal downturn in demand during the winter months, and the Agency's pay award, which when made will be effective from August.

Performance against key targets: April-July
2000-2001
Plan
To Date
Forecast
Effiency and Finance
Finance—Return on Capital Employed in year
1.9%
19.0%
6.7%
Efficiency—average examiner utilisation (80%)
80.0%
80.8%
80.1%
Customer Service
Customer Satisfaction
85% of all PT customers satisfied with level of service
85.0%
95.6%
96.0%
85% of all TT customers satisfied with level of service
85.0%
99.0%
95.0%
Waiting times
Theory test preferred test date/centre within 2 weeks (95%)
95.0%
94.8%
95.0%
Practical test national average for cars (6 weeks)
6.0
7.9
6.6
Appointments
Keep 99.5% of all theory test appointments
99.5%
99.7%
99.5%
Keep 99.5% of prac test appts in place 2 days prior
99.5%
99.1%
99.1%
Telephone Answering
after routing through call handling 90% of calls to TT booking offices answered in 20 seconds
90.0%
88.6%
90.0%
after routing through call handling 90% of calls to PT booking offices answered in 20 seconds
90.0%
85.0%
90.0%

3.3  IMPROVEMENTS IN CUSTOMER SERVICE

  3.3.1  DSA was one of the first recipients of the Charter Mark in 1992, which rewards and encourages excellence in public service. Although that award was not retained in 1995, the Agency was successful in regaining the award in 1997. The Agency has recently submitted an application to renew its Charter Mark in 2001.

  3.3.2  The Agency meets the needs of a range of customers:

    —  test candidates;

    —  driving instructors;

    —  approved training bodies who provide the statutory training course for learner riders;

    —  pupils, and their parents, who receive the Agency's Schools Programme of pre-driver education;

    —  those persons who accompany learner drivers; and

    —  the general public who benefit from safer roads.

STANDARDS

  3.3.3  The Agency seeks to ensure that all its customers receive a prompt, efficient, fair and courteous service. Service standards are explained in a leaflet available to customers (document DSA5). Despite the recent poor performance of the Agency's booking systems, overall customer satisfaction has remained high— practical driving test candidate satisfaction levels have increased from 82 per cent in 1997 to 95 per cent, and theory test candidate satisfaction levels reached 99 per cent, in 1999-2000.

HANDLING PHONE CALLS AND LETTERS

  3.3.4  Recent innovations to enhance the delivery of a good service to customers include the introduction of national telephone numbers for theory and driving test bookings, minicom users and Welsh language speakers. All correspondence is dealt with by a named member of staff and customers can make enquiries and complaints by e-mail. DSA has a clear and simple complaints procedure and has an Independent Complaints Adviser to review customers' complaints that cannot be resolved to their satisfaction by the Agency.

  3.3.5  Dedicated customer service units in the Agency's headquarters and Area Offices deal with enquiries and complaints. This provides the public with a focused contact point, and enables the Agency to deal more efficiently with correspondence. The Customer Services Manager reports directly to the Chief Executive. Staff are trained in customer care and their performance is appraised through the annual staff reporting system.

SPECIAL NEEDS

  3.3.6  DSA works with relevant experts when developing new services to ensure that minority interests and candidates with special needs are catered for. In particular, the advent of the IT-based theory test has enabled the Agency to provide the test translated into 15 non-English languages, an audio track to accompany the test for those with reading difficulties, plus on-screen signing for deaf candidates. The main advantage stemming from the IT-basis of the new theory test is that all candidates receive their result on the same day that they take the test.

ACCESS TO SERVICES

  3.3.7  One of the key commitments of the Modernising Government agenda is to make it easier for people to get access to public services. The Agency is committed to reviewing its services against the Cabinet Office criteria and identifying areas for improvement. For example, DSA is reviewing its office hours. Research undertaken by the DVO group and the People's Panel suggests that although customers would like to see longer opening hours, they do not favour 24 hour access, seven days a week. These results will inform the Agency's review process.

  3.3.8  The Modernising Government White Paper contained a commitment to provide citizens with the option of booking driving and theory tests online by 20027. Plans are underway to utilise the Government portal to deliver online access to the Driving Charter. In addition, DSA is exploring delivery channels for online booking, initially of theory tests. This will be a key development, increasing the methods by which a test could be booked and improving the speed of the transaction.

  3.3.9  The Government is committed to providing public services that respond to users' needs rather than being arranged for the providers' convenience, whilst maintaining and improving upon quality and efficiency. In keeping with this approach, DSA undertakes regular customer satisfaction surveys and hosts local and national customer focus groups. These are used to monitor satisfaction with existing services and to seek views on possible service enhancements.

  3.3.10  Customers are advised of service developments and policy changes through the Agency's various publications, its magazine for instructors and road safety interests—Despatch, its website and by notices in test centres.

3.4  IMPACT OF SHARED DVO APPROACH

  3.4.1  The Driver and Vehicle Operator Group (DVO) was established in January 1999 to improve co-ordination and delivery of joined-up services to drivers, vehicle owners, operators and other customers, whilst improving road safety and the environment, and enhancing customer protection. The Chief Executive sits on the DVO strategy board and has also seconded a senior manager to the Task Force.

  3.4.2  DSA is active in helping to deliver several of the key DVO projects including providing clearer information and easier access to all our customers through linked websites and call centres, as well as publishing guides to services responding to customers' life episodes, such as learning to drive a car. The specific projects on which DSA has made a leading contribution are:

    —  managing initial market research into the way services were currently supplied to the public by the individual DVO Agencies, and how a more co-ordinated, "joined-up" approach might lead to improvements;

    —  setting up the "Driving and Vehicles" page for inclusion in public telephone directories, which lists the relevant contact numbers for the DVO agencies. This will provide customers with a "life episode" method to find the number they need;

    —  exploiting the Agency's publications expertise in producing a book and website to give advice on "Owning a car"; and

    —  with DVLA, to develop a proposal for the automatic issue of a full driving licence following a successful driving test. This project has resources committed from the Capital Modernisation Fund, and if successful will also improve the collection of data about candidates' performance during the test, which will inform further measures to improve road safety.

  3.4.3  Other DVO activities where DSA has made, or is making, a substantial contribution include:

    —  preparing the Learning to Drive "life event" on UKonline; and

    —  producing a video for new drivers entitled "Licensed to Drive", which will explain the challenges facing them in terms of developing their driving skills, in purchasing and maintaining a vehicle, and in ensuring that they have the correct insurance and other necessary documentation.

3.5  MODERNISING THE CIVIL SERVICE

  3.5.1  The Agency has fully embraced the Modernising Government agenda. A Modernising Government Action Plan has been created, copy at Appendix H. Staff were involved through a series of conferences held during Spring 2000. The Plan covers the full range of DSA activity, but the four main areas of concentration are: better business planning, staff development and training, developing a better deal for staff, including reward, and improving diversity.

BETTER BUSINESS PLANNING

  3.5.2  Better business planning was one of the key areas for action identified in the "Civil Service for the 21st Century" programme. Better business planning should ultimately lead to the cultural change needed to create a more shared sense of purpose and values.

  3.5.3  DSA has adopted a cross-governmental approach to business planning to ensure that individual services are linked or merged, as thought appropriate. This is being addressed through many different channels, including:

    —  closer planning with our DVO and DETR counterparts;

    —  considering policy decisions in the wider context, eg DETR, DVO;

    —  promoting development and delivery of joined up services to the customers of the DVO Group;

    —  business process re-engineering reviews;

    —  better quality service reviews;

    —  benchmarking with other organisations and sharing best practice; and

    —  using evidence and research in policymaking and better focus on long term goals to achieve more realistic planning.

STAFF DEVELOPMENT

  3.5.4  In recognition of its importance, Staff Development is now one of the five Core Objectives in the 2000—01 Business Plan. In support of this, DSA has:

    —  committed to change the training and development culture and environment to meet the needs of staff in all disciplines. This is to be achieved by redeveloping our Training Centre at Cardington, and by widening the range, and raising the quality, of training;

    —  introduced a major Management Development Programme via a contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers;

    —  started development work on a programme of diversity training for introduction as soon as possible. This will include an element within the Management Development Programme but also address Diversity Awareness for all;

    —  improved initial training for Examiner Management Grades as a result of the performance improvement project;

    —  introduced the "Open Learning Venture" in 1999 to promote Lifelong Learning.

A BETTER DEAL FOR STAFF

  3.5.5  The Agency has embarked on a programme of review to ensure our terms and conditions of service reflect current best practice. Following a thorough pay and grading review, revised arrangements that will make staff reward systems fairer and more effective are being developed. These are consistent with the recommendations of the Makinson review8 and are currently the subject of negotiation. DSA also plans for a comprehensive review of the performance management, development and appraisal system in line with the Bichard report9. This will take place over the next 12 months.

IMPROVING DIVERSITY

  3.5.6  The Agency has developed a three year Diversity Action Plan with challenging targets for 2002 (document DSA6). This supports the aim of ensuring that the Agency has a more diverse workforce and begins to better reflect the community we serve. DSA has also set up a diversity Whitley sub-group, a diversity working party and created a network of harassment advisers.

INVESTORS IN PEOPLE

  3.5.7  DSA achieved Investors in People (IiP) accreditation in July 2000. The Assessment report recognised the progress that the Agency had made in achieving the accreditation, citing good practice in the Agency's training arrangements, in particular the new Management Development Programme. The Agency has opted for a post-recognition review in 18 months' time.

3.6  IMPROVING ROAD SAFETY

  3.6.1  The Government's Road Safety Strategy introduced a new 40 per cent reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents by 2010 compared with the average for 1994-98. DSA will contribute to a 40 per cent reduction in riders and drivers killed or seriously injured, in the age group up to 24 years, over the same timescale.

  3.6.2  To achieve these improvements, the Agency's role is to be expanded beyond its core functions of delivering driver testing, and of supervising driving and riding instructors. DSA's expanded remit includes:

    —  delivering pre-driver road safety education in schools. DSA already has a highly commended education package for 15-17 year olds about the driving test and the wider issues of safe driving. funding in DETR's SR2000 will enable 1,500 visits to schools and colleges during 2000-01 reaching 85,000 students, to increase to 4,500 visits in 2002-03;

    —  developing training syllabuses and logbook schemes for different classes of learner driver;

    —  improving the register of car driving instructors, and developing equivalent registers for other classes of instructor;

    —  promoting higher standards of driver training both pre- and post-test;

    —  assessing the standards of professional drivers and assisting their employers to achieve high safety standards;

    —  developing the range of publications and other publicity material designed to promote safe driving for life;

    —  promoting the sustainable development agenda within driving; and

    —  providing a source of expertise and advice on road safety policy in the field of driver training, testing and behaviour on the road.

  3.6.3  Examples of how this expanded role will be fulfilled include the expansion of Agency's non-statutory testing of taxi drivers, that it currently provides to local authorities, and driver quality assessments for bus companies.

  3.6.4  Progress towards achieving the overall casualty reduction targets, including the DSA's target, will be reviewed annually against the accident statistics produced by the Department. The Road Safety Advisory Panel will monitor and evaluate progress on the Strategy, with formal reviews every three years.

LONGER DRIVING TESTS

  3.6.5  DSA reported to the Sub-committee's earlier inquiry, that it had introduced enhanced practical tests for learner car drivers and learner motorcyclists in May 1999. The main changes were to lengthen the period of the test so that more driving could be assessed and a threshold of driving faults was set. Initially the new test saw pass rates fall to 41 per cent, but as candidates and their instructors adjusted to the new standards, the number of successful candidates increased. The overall pass rate for the practical car driving test in 1999-2000 was 43.8 per cent, compared with 45.9 per cent in 1998-99.

  3.6.6  Analysis of test performance data would suggest that very few candidates are failing purely on an accumulation of driving faults. The extension of the driving time, which allows examiners to test candidates on a wider variety of roads, has had the greatest impact on pass rates. This would suggest that candidates are inadequately prepared and find it difficult to maintain a consistent standard. Research by the Transport Research Laboratory into candidates' performance on test, due to report later this year, will influence a decision whether to reduce the driving fault threshold.

HAZARD PERCEPTION TESTING

  3.6.7  The Committee's earlier report signalled their support for the introduction of a hazard perception test. In light of research undertaken for the Department, DSA is developing a moving-image hazard perception test for introduction in Autumn 2002. It will come after the Theory Test, but at the same testing event, and is likely to comprise 15 moving image video clips each lasting approximately one minute. A candidate will have to prove competence in both the theory and the hazard perception elements of the test to gain a pass.

  3.6.8  The new Hazard Perception Test is designed to contribute to the Road Safety Strategy targets by improving new and young drivers' ability to perceive a hazard as it develops.

PASSPLUS

  3.6.9  The Committee also expressed support for PassPlus, the post-test training scheme for newly qualified drivers, and recommended that more should be done to encourage new drivers to undertake such training. Takeup of the scheme continues to grow, though total numbers remain low. DSA, with the PassPlus management board is considering ways to encourage further takeup. One example of how the DVO project is having an impact, is that the video "Licensed to Drive", which is currently in production, will feature PassPlus. It is proposed that the video will be distributed to all successful car test candidates.

3.7  MAJOR REVIEWS

  3.7.1  In 1999, DSA commissioned Pannell Kerr Forster (PKF) to carry out the regular five year review and evaluation of performance required by Cabinet Office guidance, as well as to provide advice on the future direction for the Agency.

  3.7.2  PKF took evidence from ADI representatives, customer focus groups and surveys, plus DETR, the DVO Group and DSA itself. They commented that in the last five years DSA had undergone a number of fundamental changes including two restructuring exercises, the move to a Trading Fund, the introduction of the theory test, enhancements to the practical tests, and the development and implementation of major changes to IT systems. It was noted that DSA had consistently met its financial targets during this time.

  3.7.3  Their Report (copy at document DSA7) identified a number of lessons that could be drawn from the problems encountered in undertaking those changes. In particular, it recommended that DSA should add to its IT and project management expertise, and revisit the IT Strategy to maximise the potential for joined-up delivery of services, exploiting the opportunities offered by membership of the DVO Group. It also suggested that, compared with other Agencies, DSA had a large number of targets. PKF recommended that this number be reduced so that targets could be more easily communicated and provide a greater focus for staff.

  3.7.4  DSA has considered how these recommendations can be taken forward. An action plan is shown at Appendix I

INTERNAL AUDIT

  3.7.5  Internal Audit is currently provided by DETR, however the provision of this service is currently under review. The Internal Audit for 1999-2000 highlighted no major areas of concern. The Annual Report and Accounts were unqualified and the National Audit Office's management letter did not raise any major issues.

PUBLIC SERVICES PRODUCTIVITY PANEL

  3.7.6  The Public Services Productivity Panel conducted an independent assessment of customer service delivery in DSA, DVLA and the Highways Agency. Their report in January 2000 (document DSA8) commented on the Agency's innovative approach to funding improvements in its services through sponsorship. In reviewing the DSA's approach to market research, particularly customer satisfaction surveys, the report stated that the Consumers' Association found the surveys to be carried out in an effective way, which elicited useful information that is acted upon. The report suggested, however, that the response rate to such surveys might be improved by making the questionnaire less complicated. Whilst the overall response rate for candidate surveys exceeds the "accepted average response rates for [postal] satisfaction surveys of 25%" as set out in guidance issued by the Modernising Public Services Group, the Agency is keen to improve it further. To that end, questionnaires have been redesigned, and a prize-draw incentive to encourage responses has been introduced.

3.8  CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

  3.8.1  The Agency recognises the value of sharing best practice, encouraged in Modernising Government, and is:

    —  benchmarking the estate. Internal benchmarking one driving test centre against another. External benchmarking office accommodation across government buildings nationally via Property Advisors for the Civil Estate (PACE), and DSA belongs to the Occupiers Property Databank (OPD)—the largest benchmarking club in Europe;

    —  reviewing the self assessment score measured by the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model;

    —  implementing process improvement through process mapping and benchmarking;

    —  joining in Business Process Re-engineering reviews across the DVO group; and

    —  developing and carrying out a five year programme of Better Quality Service Reviews.

  3.8.2  DSA recognises the previous difficulties it has encountered with introducing major IT projects. It is taking steps to improve its expertise in managing such projects in the future. Particular measures taken include:

    —  appointment of an IT Director (this is in line with the commendations of the PKF report);

    —  re-organisation of IT functions within the Agency and the creation of a new IT projects group to oversee and advise on the progress of IT projects;

    —  establishing a new IT focus specifically on IT strategy and issues, both within DSA and DVO, and also in delivery of the e-government agenda;

    —  participation in a review alongside DVLA and other DVO agencies looking for opportunities for strategic joining-up of IT data and/or systems;

    —  engaging in a programme of upgrade of staff skills—in particular DSA has introduced arrangement for training on Prince 2 project management in line with the Cabinet Office report of "Successful Projects"; and

    —  reviewing and restructuring a number of ongoing projects to ensure a better fit with Prince 2 principles, including increased involvement of users in specification and ownership of projects.

STRATEGY

  3.8.3  The Agency will be producing a Procurement and Contract Management strategy with the aim of maximising value for money for the Agency in the purchase of goods and services and ensuring that unnecessary transaction costs are removed from its systems. DSA will continue to encourage professionalism and purchasing best practice by promoting informal and formal training opportunities. DSA will continue to work towards greater collaboration with DVO Agencies, the Central Department and other government departments in order to achieve volume savings through joint arrangements.

REVIEW

  3.8.4  The Agency plans to review its staff resource utilisation. In 1999-2000, a best practice review of supervising examiner working arrangements was undertaken. During 2000-01, DSA will spread best practice to achieve consistent, effective, and efficient management of examiner resources throughout the Agency's examiner workforce. A new monitoring system will be developed to support the development of best practice models.

  3.8.5  The Agency will also review its existing property estate with a view to minimising the vacant space carried. A new target to reduce 48 per cent of all vacant space, against a 1 April 2000 baseline over a five year period, has been set. This will be achieved by handing back unused space to major occupiers (where buildings are shared with other government departments), relocating to smaller premises or combining driving test centres where possible, and either disposing of the freehold interest or returning the property to the landlord. This review will also consider the possibilities for further sharing or co-locating functions within the DVO group. For example, most lorry and bus driving tests are currently conducted from Vehicle Inspectorate testing stations.

  3.8.6  In cases where the Agency is considering closing or relocating a Driving Test facility outside of the immediate vicinity, it has developed a public consultation process to enable the strength of local feeling to be properly assessed and for all views and options to be fully considered.

  3.8.7  The consultation process is based on the Cabinet Office advice and looks to involve local Approved Driving Instructors, their National Associations, local MPs and members of the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies, Local Authorities and other interested parties. Detailed assessments of the public consultations are forwarded to Ministers before final decisions on the future of Driving Test Centres are made.

EU DIRECTIVES—LADEN TESTING

  3.8.8  DSA will also consider the implications for the test centres of laden testing for lorries and vehicle and trailer combinations, and off-road testing for motorcyclists flowing from amendments to the EC 2nd Driving Licence Directive. It is expected these amendments will be published this Autumn.

APPENDICES
  Appendix A  
  —  Statutory Framework of the Agency's Work

  Appendix B  
  —  DSA senior management structure chart

  Appendix C  
  —  DSA financial arrangements as a Trading Fund

  Appendix D  
  —  Schedule of fees charged for DSA services

  Appendix E  
  —  Financial summary for years 1995-56 — 1999-2000

  Appendix F  
  —  Performance of the Agency's driving test booking system

  Appendix G  
  —  Management of Prometric's theory test systems

  Appendix H  
  —  Modernising Government Action Plan

  Appendix I  
  —  Schedule of PKF recommendations and proposed DSA actions

ENCLOSURES [NOT ATTACHED]
  Document DSA1  —  Framework Document 2000
  Document DSA2  —  Corporate Plan
  Document DSA3  —  Business Plan 2000-01
  Document DSA4  —  Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000
  Document DSA5  —  DSA Customer Charter leaflet
  Document DSA6  —  Diversity Action Plan
  Document DSA7  —  PKF Report
  Document DSA8  —  PSPP Report

7  Chapter 5 of the Modernising Government White Paper, Cm 4310, March 1999.8 "Incentives for Change" by John Makinson of the Public Services Productivity Panel (1999).9 Performance Management: Civil Service Reform—A Report to the Meeting of Permanent Heads of Departments, Sunningdale 30 September-1 October 1999


 
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