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


DVLA evidence to the Environment, Transport & Regional Affairs Committee

5.1  AIM, KEY OBJECTIVES AND MANAGEMENT

Primary Aims

  5.1.1  The Agency's primary aims which contribute to DETR and broader Government objectives are to:

    —  facilitate road safety and general law enforcement by maintaining registers of drivers and vehicles;

    —  collect taxation—Vehicle Excise Duty [VED].

Objectives

  5.1.2  In support of its aims the Agency has the following objectives;

    —  to deliver its primary aims and associated tasks efficiently and fairly;

    —  in line with the principles of Modernising Government, to identify customer needs and to provide good service to customers within the resources available;

    —  to work closely with other Driver, Vehicle and Operator [DVO] and Departmental organisations and with other agencies of Government as appropriate to promote joined-up services;

    —  to contribute to the formulation and achievement of Government policies;

    —  to improve the effectiveness of its services and the efficiency of its use of resources;

    —  to meet the performance targets set out each year by the Secretary of State.

Principal Responsibilities and Main Tasks

  5.1.3  The Agency:

    —  sets up and records amendments to records of drivers and vehicles to meet the needs of law enforcement agencies and others with a legitimate right of access;

    —  issues and (where appropriate) withdraws driver licences;

    —  issues registration documents and annual vehicle licences to vehicle keepers;

    —  issues vehicle registration marks, and is responsible for the sale of special marks;

    —  collects and enforces VED—last year the Agency collected VED amounting to £5 billion (gross) and £85 million in fines, penalties and induced relicensing from enforcement activities.

  5.1.4  DVLA's driver responsibilities apply to Great Britain. Driver licensing in Northern Ireland is covered by a separate agency, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI), responsible to the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.

  5.1.5  The overall responsibility for licensing and registering of vehicles and the collection of VED in Great Britain and Northern Ireland lies with the DETR Secretary of State. These functions are discharged on DETR's behalf in Northern Ireland by DVLNI, and the arrangements are covered by an agreement between DETR and Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. The agreement is kept under review and revised as necessary to take account of developments.

  5.1.6  Although not responsible for day to day operations in Northern Ireland, DVLA works closely with DVLNI and provides active support on vehicles, drivers, enforcement policy and operations. DVLA has a seat on the DVLNI Ministerial Advisory Board.

  5.1.7  Examples of support include close co-operation on the replacement of the Northern Ireland vehicles system and the introduction of graduated VED. DVLA and DVLNI worked together on the introduction of the plastic photocard driving licence. DVLA has provided a great deal of support to DVLNI in tackling the VED evasion problem in the Province and DVLA has also played a part in facilitating cross-border discussions in Ireland on vehicle related issues.

Management Structure

  5.1.8  The Chief Executive and Accounting Officer (Clive Bennett from 1 October 2000) is directly accountable to the Secretary of State for the day to day running of the Agency.

  5.1.9  The Chief Executive is a member ofthe Ministerial Advisory Board sitting alongside officials from DETR(C) and an external appointee. The Board meets three times a year to review progress and to advise Ministers on target levels.

Scale of the business

  
Out-turn
  
1997-98
1998-99
1999-2000
  
£'m
£'m
£'m
VED collection UK (gross)
4,700
5,100
5,000
Operating Costs
194.1
210.7
229.0
of which spend by service requirement is
  
  
  
Drivers
27.9
42.1
48.9
Vehicles (including NI and VED enforcement)
157.0
163.9
168.5
Others (including SOM)
9.2
4.7
11.6
Or alternatively spend by delivery method is       
Other external contracts and supplies
126.8
130.7
146.2
Internal costs (mainly salaries)
62.3
70.0
76.1
Notional Costs (depreciation, cost of capital, departmental on-costs)
5.0
10.0
6.7
% of costs covered by receipts
0.54
0.69
0.50
Operating income
110.7
238.1
147.0
of which
  
  
  
Driving Licences
34.0
39.5
40.8
Vehicle Registration
0.0
*67.7
68.6
Others (including out of court settlements and court costs)
9.9
38.9
36.9
Receipts paid directly to the Consolidated Fund
66.8
92.0
**0.7


  * Vehicle fee for first registrations introduced.

  ** Sale of mark receipts were removed from operating income in 1999-2000.

  
1997-98
1998-99
1999-2000
Total STAFF (full time equivalents):
4,124
4,408
4,773
of which
  
  
  
DVLC Swansea
2,794
3,132
3,491
Local Offices
1,330
1,27
1,282
Total transaction Volumes (millions)
81.8
82.9
85.2
of which       
Vehicle relicensing
36.9
37.5
38.9
Other vehicle transactions
31.4
31.7
33.1
Driver transactions
13.5
13.7
13.2


  5.1.10  Other Key Figures.

    —  30,000 phonecalls a day (seven million a year) to the Customer Enquiry Unit alone;

    —  77,000 e-mails received per annum;

    —  38.2 million Drivers Records (5.5 million provisional);

    —  28.4 million licensed Vehicles Records

    —  750 million microfilm images held

    —  613 thousand prosecutions (and out of court settlements).

  5.1.11  To give a broad sense of scale, a policy change which "only adds a couple of seconds to each transaction," means (on circa 80 million transactions pa) 30 extra staff at a cost of around £400,000 a year ie £1 million for every five seconds.

5.2  PERFORMANCE AGAINST KEY TARGETS

Targets

  5.2.1  The Agency has been set Public Service Agreement targets on efficiency and enforcement. In addition, the Secretary of State also sets the Agency targets on customer service and quality. In 1999-2000, all but two of the ten targets were achieved. These targets will be increasingly hard to meet while at the same time introducing the tighter validation requirements (for registration and licensing) put forward by the Vehicle Crime Reduction Action Team (VCRAT) as part of the plan to meet the target of reducing vehicle crime by 30 per cent in five years.

  5.2.2  The levels of telephone enquiries grew by 14 per cent in 1999-2000, largely due to the introduction of photocard licences and follow-up enquiries with regard to original documentation. The demand for answers to enquiries by e-mail is also growing rapidly. Most enquiries count as an overhead, and their cost has a direct adverse effect on efficiency.

Public Service Agreement [PSA] Targets

  5.2.3  For 1999-2000 the Agency was set the following PSA targets.

PSA Target
1999-2000
  
Efficiency
Target
2.6%
  
Actual
l3.0%
VED Enforcement
Target
2.9:1
(yield/cost ratio)
Actual
3.0:1


Secretary Of State Customer Service Targets

  5.2.4  The range of transactions are set specific and demanding customer service level targets. These targets are kept under close review by the DVLA Ministerial Advisory Board which has set tighter targets for selected transactions.

Performance against Secretary of State Targets

Customer Service Targets
  
1997-98
1998-99
1999-2000
2000-01
Year to Date
Accuracy (% without DVLA Error)
Driving Licence
Target
98%
98%
98%
98%
  
  
Actual
98.1%
98.6%
98.2%
  
97.8%
Vehicle Registration Document: First registration
Target
98%
98%
98%
98%
 
  
Actual
98.4%
98.1%
98.2%
  
98.3%
Changes (keeper etc)
Target
97%
97%
97%
97%
  
  
Actual
97.2%
97.1%
97.6%
  
97.4%
Turnround (95% in working days) working days)
Driving Licences: Ordinary
Target
10 days
10 days
10 days
10 days
  
  
Actual
10 days
7 days
12 days
  
15 days
Vocational
Target
9 days
9 days
9 days
8 days
  
  
Actual
8 days
8 days
9 days
  
8 days
1st Provisional
Target
9 days
9 days
9 days
9 days
  
  
Actual
9 days
7 days
9 days
  
9 days
Vehicle Registration Document: First registration
Target
12 days
12 days
12 days
12 days
  
  
Actual
12 days
12 days
12 days
  
12 days
Changes (keeper etc)
Target
13 days
13 days
13 days
12 days
  
  
Actual
12 days
12 days
12 days
  
13 days
Enquiries (% answered)
Telephone (in 30secs)
Target
90%
92%
94%
94%
  
  
Actual
96.7%
95.5%
93.0%
  
93.3%
Written (in 8 days)
Target
96%
96%
96%96%
  
  
  
Actual
96.4%
95.3%
96.5%
  
98.9%


Performance to date in 2000-01

  5.2.5  All targets have been met to date except for ordinary driving licences and changes to registration documents. The ordinary driving licence target is unlikely to be retrieved by the end of the year. The backlog of driving licence applications was around 180,000 during July and August. This is as a result of the introduction of the new photocard system and the requirement to check original documents to verify identity. The Agency is taking measures to address the difficulties, including making significant changes to workflow methods and the position is improving. The target for changes to vehicle registration documents falls just short of target (12 days) but the position is likely to be retrieved by the end of the year.

  5.2.6  The Agency's Customer Enquiry Unit has been under severe pressure, particularly with regard to driver enquiries. The year to date performance is 93.3 per cent compared with the target of 94 per cent. The knock-on effect of the backlog in the drivers operational areas and the failure to meet turnround targets for ordinary driving licence applications is creating an excessive customer demand that the Unit is currently unable to handle satisfactorily. A number of special measures have been taken to improve the situation including additional training and extended opening hours.

Charter Standards

  5.2.7  The Agency has set the following charter standards:

  
Standard
Performance
  
  
  
1999-2000
Year to Date
Driving Licences
  
  
  
Ordinary driving licences
3 weeks
98.7%
99.6%
(100% of cases within)
  
  
  
Medical Investigations
  
  
  
Aim to complete work
  
  
  
Ordinary driving licences
5 weeks
43.3%
48.2%
Vocational driving licences
7weeks
66.1%
59.8%
Medical Turnround
  
 
  
80% of cases within no of working days
  
  
  
ODL first application
41 days
64%
36%
ODL notification of medical condition
37 days
77%
87%
VOC first application
28days
26%
30%
VOC notification of medical condition
65 day
90%
94%


  5.2.8  Charter Standards have been maintained satisfactorily during the period to date with the exception of the drivers medical area where high staff turnover, IT system problems and some inefficient processes contributed to this position. Work is being undertaken in these areas to reduce the backlog and improve on the amount of time taken to process applications in this area.

Customer feedback

  5.2.9  DVLA's track record in meeting customer targets, both customer service and operational efficiency, has generally been good. Past market research indicates that customers are content with most aspects of DVLA service. Where a customer is dissatisfied (less than 0.003 per cent of transactions result in a formal complaint) DVLA is open to receiving and dealing with complaints. An internal code of practice for dealing with complaints has been introduced for staff at the Agency and a leaflet "If things go wrong" advises customers of the procedures to follow.

  5.2.10  The Agency is presently undertaking new market research to measure current levels of customer satisfaction. The Agency will use the information provided as an internal benchmark to consider whether existing standards are felt to be satisfactory or require tightening. Initial findings from the survey suggest that the vast majority of customers (89 per cent) are generally satisfied overall with the service provided by DVLA (four per cent are dissatisfied).

  5.2.11  Customer service can be affected by a rapid growth in demand or if the Agency is constrained by statute. It can be difficult to recruit staff (particularly specialist staff like doctors) and there is a time lag in providing training. Over the years customer expectations have also changed so that they require an immediate response via the telephone or e-mail. This is prompting DVLA to look at new service delivery methods.

Continuous Improvement

  5.2.12  The Agency's Efficiency Unit co-ordinates and quality assures the programme of Better Quality Service Reviews. All of the Agency's functions and services will be reviewed over a five year period. The focus of the reviews will be to demonstrate through benchmarking with other service providers that the Agency's services either are, or can be brought up to, best in class. The first phase of reviews, which are either in the planning or information gathering stages, include Drivers Medical, Development Directorate, Despatch, Customer Enquiry Unit and Training and Development Group. Managers and staff. The Trade Union is also closely involved in these reviews (see also 5.4.7).

5.3  IMPROVEMENTS IN CUSTOMER SERVICE

  5.3.1  As confirmed by the Public Services Productivity Panel study, Customers in the Driving Seat issued on 25 January 2000, the Agency has a track record to be proud of in achieving significant successes in customer care. It strives continuously to deliver a first class service to all its customers. The Agency trains staff to act in a customer-friendly manner and givea high standard of service. The Agency aims to do business as if the customer has a choice, and could take their business elsewhere.

Further Improvements to Customer Service

  5.3.2  The Agency plans further improvements in productivity and levels of customer service.

  5.3.3  Many of these improvements are dependent on the introduction of new technology— particularly in areas such as electronic relicensing—and on changes to legislation. For example the electronic relicensing rollout to a wider audience depends on the introduction of national motor insurance and MOT databases as the current system requires sight of a valid insurance document and MOT certificate before a licence can be issued. This new service rollout is due to start in mid 2002.

Charter Mark

  5.3.4  The Agency was first awarded the Charter Mark in 1993 for excellence in the delivery of public service. When it expired in 1996, the Agency reapplied and was again awarded the Charter Mark for the whole Agency including the Local Offices. In August1999, DVLA was awarded the Charter Mark for the third time in succession, thereby demonstrating almost a decade of continuously improving service to the customer and prompting the assessor to comment that, "DVLA works hard to deliver good customer service".

Modernising Government

  5.3.5  The Government's White Paper on Modernising Government reflects the approach that DVLA has always taken to improve the quality of services provided to its customers. Central to the Government's programme of renewal and reform is its commitment that policy making is more responsive to people's needs by ensuring that services are more "joined-up" and make full use of new technology. These policies facilitate DVLA's strategy of using technology to improve efficiency and customer service. The Agency already has examples in place, for example the Fleets and Automated First Registration and Licensing schemes and the pilot electronic relicensing scheme.

  5.3.6  The creation of the DVO Strategy Board is also helping to accelerate closer collaboration between DVLA and other agencies and public bodies (see section 5.4).

  5.3.7  Further details of these and other initiatives that the Agency has undertaken in recent years are provided in Appendix A.

Protecting Data and the Individual

  5.3.8  While making full use of new technology the Agency has a duty to protect the records on the main Driver and Vehicle databases. Operating systems are designed so that only staff with a user identification and password have access. There are monitoring facilities used to check the activities of authorised staff. The system keeps an automatic record of who accesses or amends any record.

  5.3.9  Unauthorised access from outside the Agency is highly unlikely because direct external links to DVLA's databases are limited and are strictly controlled. DVLA's current links to the internet—potentially the most serious external threat of unauthorised access—are currently via stand alone PCs so there is no possibility of unauthorised access to records from this source. This situation will change when DVLA links its network to the Government Secure Intranet [GSI] because GSI includes an Internet link. The work of the IT security team is already at an advanced stage in implementing a firewall to protect DVLA systems from outside attack when the GSI link is implemented.

  5.3.10  Maintenance of DVLA's main databases and supporting IT processes is out-sourced to EDS, a company security cleared for the provision of IT services to Government Departments.

Data Protection Commissioner

  5.3.11  In addition to the technical safeguards, the Agency works closely with the office of the Data Protection Commissioner so that data is processed lawfully and that, as far as possible, individual privacy is maintained. This helps to ensure that the Agency works within the principles of data protection legislation, and that occasional complaints are dealt with quickly and effectively.

  5.3.12  The Agency's data can be used legitimately for purposes outside those of registration and licensing. Whilst access to the Drivers record is restricted mainly to the police, the Vehicle register is a semi-public record. Consequently, the Agency has to preserve a delicate balance between the interests of those who wish to obtain information and those whose details it holds for specific purposes. Each application is considered carefully before information is released, and there are extra precautions taken to safeguard the security of people who can demonstrate that they might be at particular risk.

  5.3.13  Concern has been expressed over there lease of information to car park enforcement companies who make use of cameras and fixed penalties. Legal advice indicates that enquiries from such companies fall within the "reasonable cause" criteria. The Agency is working closely with the companies concerned to improve and clarify working practices. This includes drawing up a code of practice andrevising forms to ensure that the public is not confused.

5.4  DVO STRATEGIC APPROACH

  5.4.1  The Driver and Vehicle agencies (DVLA, DSA, VI, and VCA) have always worked together on issues of common interest. This co-operation was strengthened by the creation of a DVO Strategy Board in January 1999. DVLA is an enthusiastic member.The Chief Executive is a member of the Strategy Board and the Agency has staff on secondment to the Task Force.

  5.4.2  The DVO Task Force is taking forward work to identify:

    —  areas of particular competency;

    —  opportunities for shared learning;

    —  how far agencies should develop their own expertise on specialist skills such as Better Quality Services (BQS) or work with other agencies. The DVO Task Force is taking forward work to identify areas of particular competency and opportunities for shared learning:

  5.4.3  DVLA has taken the lead in a number of key DVO initiatives.

DVO IT Strategy and DVLA's ITCON Project

  5.4.4  DVLA has a major project team [ITCON] preparing for the re-tendering of the IT contract which is due to expire on 31 March 2002. This presents opportunities for joining up aspects of cross-DVO Information Systems/Information and Communication Technology [IS/ICT] throughout the life of the new contract. DVLA is consulting with the other organisations and is encouraging full participation in identifying the potential scope of the procurement.

  5.4.5  The DVO IT Network Group is examining the implications of the DVLA ITCON project and future DVO procurements on the IS/ICT policies of all the DVO organisations. An outline DVO IS/ICT Strategy Plan is being drawn together with recommendations on the way forward.

Process mapping

  5.4.6  Process mapping involves identifying and recording (usually in the form of a flowchart) the logical path of the various activities which contribute to a defined process. As part of the DVO initiative process mapping is being undertaken to try and identify ways in which issues can be brought together to lead to improved customer service and the delivery of electronic government and joined up government.

  5.4.7  An example of this process at work is provided by the personal import of a vehicle. Initial assessment uncovered the number of separate agencies and transactions an individual is faced with leading to confusion and some duplication of effort. To resolve this a project has been set up to look at the possibility of setting up a "one stop shop" which could deal with all aspects of the import process.

Centre of Excellence

  5.4.8  DVLA's work on BQS is well advanced. At the request of DETR Corporate Business and Agencies Division the Agency's Efficiency Unit [EU] has given a presentation to representatives from other DETR Directorates and Agencies on DVLA's planning process and methodology for taking forward the BQS review process. The Cabinet Office's Public Sector Benchmarking sector is keen to publicise the Agency's approach to demonstrate best practice.

  As part of the DVO Task Force initiative on sharing best practices the Agency has provided details of its BQS programme and invited the agencies to participate in common interest reviews such as enquiry handling and training.

Cross agency joint projects

  5.4.9  These are routinely reported to the DVO Board. DVLA is currently the lead agency on the following initiatives:

InitiativeDETR/DVO Partners
Importing a vehicle—process re-engineering VI,VCA, DETR,
Imported vehicle fraudVI, DVLNI
Imported vehicle—registration of new imports by independent commercial operators VCA
National Trailer RegisterVI
Use of cameras for enforcementVI
Graduated VED (publicity campaign)VI, VCA, DETR
Graduated VED website—links between DVLA & VCA website Joint venture with VCA
Call handling—re-direction of calls between DSA and DVLA Joint venture with DSA
Electronic Licensing for the DisabledBA


  5.4.10  A specific example of a new area for further co-operation, which will involve DVLA, VI, TAN and DSA, is on enforcement.

  5.4.11  The DVO Strategy Board is keen to develop a coherent strategy throughout the DVO businesses on enforcement. Whilst all DVO agencies have strategies and objectives to deal with their individual enforcement business, they share a common objective of improving road and vehicle safety. DVLA is concerned also with revenue collection and enforcement and record accuracy. Some joint working between DVO agencies in the enforcement field already takes place. However, the nature of VED evasion (the need to spot the unlicensed vehicle on the public road) means that the main current area of co-operation is between VI and DVLA.

  5.4.12  The next step will be the setting up of a working group comprising representatives from the enforcement units of each of the DVO agencies. This team will encourage the establishment of cross agency seminars and workshops where enforcement "experts" can discuss issues, best practice, learning experiences and shared issues.

5.5  MODERNISING GOVERNMENT

A Better Deal for Staff

  5.5.1  The Agency has completed negotiations on the annual pay award; the seventh since taking pay delegation from the Centre. This year's award introduced a new Agency incentive scheme which will pay a non-consolidated bonus performance to all satisfactory performers. The bonus will be paid on the Agency's overall performance in each year. Affordability has always been a key determinant in setting the level of the pay award (which is performance based) together with public sector pay policy. Recruitment and retention problems are factors, particularly in some areas.

  5.5.2  Recruitment and retention is a particular issue for the Agency in some local offices and in the Swansea call centre where local call centres threaten the Agency's ability to recruit and retain quality staff. In the network the problem is one of comparison with other departments and agencies resulting in a high turnover in staff in some areas, particularly where DVLA offices are co-located with other departments. Other organisations such as DETR(C) can afford to increase their starting salaries for basic grades quite significantly because they have very few staff in these grades. By contrast, DVLA has large numbers of staff in these lower grades and therefore any increase in starting salaries is expensive.

  5.5.3  The Agency is addressing the problem in two ways. A group has been set up to benchmark recruitment and retention practices against those of other organisations considered to be particularly effective in this field and the lessons learned will be applied to Agency procedures. Also a Pay and Grading Review is underway which is considering recruitment and retention alongside a number of other pay related issues. The results of the Review are expected in the New Year with the intention of starting to implement its recommendations as part of the 2001 pay round.

Health and Safety

  5.5.4  The Agency is recognised as a leader in the field of workplace health promotion and has received several awards and accolades in recognition of its commitment. Special attention is paid to employees who are exposed to particular health risks in the course of their work. For example, virtually all the Agency's staff use Display Screen Equipment [DSE] and the Agency complies fully with The Health & Safety (Display Screen Assessment) Regulations 1992.

  5.5.5  Considerable effort is spent to minimise the risk of Work Related Upper Limb Disorders [WRULDs] and the Agency:

    —  has a network of trained DSE Assessors, supported by the Health & Safety and Environmental Advisory Unit, who carry out comprehensive DSE assessments and advise best practice;

    —  provides employees with suitable training, information and instruction;

    —  ensures managers and staff understand the need for prevention and the importance of early diagnosis;

    —  ensures that staff take regular breaks orchange activity; and

    —  takes prompt and appropriate action when WRULD related problems are identified eg a change of job.

  5.5.6  All reported, medically supported cases of WRLUD are noted in a register held by Personnel Directorate. The Agency's Occupational Health Adviser (based at Swansea) is available to discuss problems and, where appropriate, suggest remedies—not only on this but all health issues. In addition, health issues are raised at the joint official and trade union, Health & Safety Committee, which meets quarterly.

Harassment

  5.5.7  The Agency has a network of trained Harassment Contact Officers [HCOs] and there is an HCO available within reasonable travelling distance of all staff.

Graduate Recruitment and In Service Training

  5.5.8  The Agency is taking forward a range of initiatives including a new graduate recruitment scheme aimed at bringing new talent into the Agency and developing those selected along a well-defined fast track. This will offer a structured development programme benchmarked against national standards to encourage individuals to achieve their potential. The Agency is already an NVQ assessment centre for some awards and is planning to extend into other areas. DVLA is also working towards becoming an accredited centre with the Institute of Management. These developments clearly support the Civil Service Reform agenda of bringing in and bringing on talent and marketable qualifications. We are piloting the use of Assessment and Development Centres as part of the Agency's recruitment, selection and development process.

Investors in People

  5.5.9  The Agency achieved Investors in People status at the end of November 1999at the first attempt. The national assessor was particularly impressed by the Agency's commitment to training and developing staff, the range and scope of training anddevelopment opportunities and the comprehensive way in which benefits and value for money are evaluated. Improvement areas were identified and an action plan has been agreed and is being implemented. The Agency has opted for annual IiP assessment and the first is planned for April 2001.

5.6  PRODUCTIVITY PANEL REPORT: DVLA CALL CENTRE PERFORMANCE

  5.6.1  DVLA was one of three transport agencies subject to scrutiny by the Public Services Productivity Panel (PSPP). The PSPP report suggested the need for some improvement but did identify a "wide range of good practice" from which other agencies might learn, including "clear leadership", "commitment to customer service", "robust business planning", ensuring that customer service policies are consistently "applied nationwide", and "good quality training".

  5.6.2  The report said that "all three (agencies) have made real progress in developing customer-focused services" and referred to DVLA's "high quality services to users".

  5.6.3  DVLA discussed its difficulties with the Productivity Panel and highlighted the problems it was experiencing in expanding its drivers enquiry centre to keep pace with the very rapid rate of growth in telephone calls, particularly at peak times of day. Following the review the Productivity Panel Report set down a target on the telephone line "engaged" performance. This was to reduce the proportion of the day when all lines were engaged to 10 per cent by 31 March 2000 and to 4-5 per cent by mid-2000.

  5.6.4  The Agency achieved the 31 March target of 10 per cent. For the period from the end of May through June, July and August the total line availability performance has been 89 per cent. The workload in the Agency's Call Centre has increased significantly in the past months, particularly over the summer period. There has been 20 per cent increase in calls and a 30 second (approximately 20 per cent) increase in call duration—largely from customers chasing progress on their photocard driving licence applications and/or return of their passport or other identity documentation.

Initiatives to Improve Performance: Immediate actions taken

  5.6.5  A number of procedural and technical improvements have been implemented to enhance the Agency's call handling ability. Despite the fact that the financial regime does not allow additional funding to handle the increased workload additional staff are already being trained to support the Drivers area. Special recruitment action is being taken to extend permanently the opening times of the Call Centre from 0800 hours to 2030 hours on weekdays and to provide an all-day Saturday service when lines will remain open until 1730 hours.

Introduction of an "Over the Counter" Service

  5.6.6  DVLA is required to check original identity documents before issuing photocard driving licences. Until recently these have had to be sent with the applicationby post. An "over the counter" photocard licence checking service was introduced in mid-June which involves the documents being checked at the post office counter and handed back to the applicant. This was intended to relieve some of the pressure on the Agency's call centre from drivers telephoning the Agency about their original documents. Although some benefit is emerging from the PONB checking service, the full effects will only be obtained if the service has national coverage. An extension to the current 218 offices to include the remaining 364 branch offices is due to take place in November. Current indications are that the scheme is proving popular and we are working with PONB to ensure maximum benefit.

5.7  FINANCIAL REGIME

  5.7.1  The Agency operates within the overall DETR departmental expenditure limit. Cash expenditure and appropriated receipts are subject to public expenditure controls and supply procedures.

  5.7.2  As part of the Agency's annual business planning, DVLA, DETR (C) and Treasury agree the targets and work programmes that can be delivered within DVLA's agreed cash settlement. These take into account forecast business volumes, the agreed efficiency target and other commitments and pressures. Within DVLA's overall cash settlement, activities that are led by customer demand are funded under the terms of a demand financing agreement with Treasury.

Fee Income

  5.7.3  When fee income and sale of marks revenue (but not VED) is taken into account, income is broadly in line with costs without needing a direct charge on the general taxpayer (see 5.1.8). However, the income is not closely aligned to cost-generating activities:

    —  Drivers—regulations require replacement licences (eg for change of address) to be issued free, so their costs are carried by increased fees on other driving licences. These cases make up around 40 per cent of the total.

    —  Vehicles—fees are collected at first registration, which can be volatile, whereas costs are mainly incurred on annual relicensing for which we are prohibited from charging a fee.

    —  Enforcement—is vote controlled.

    —  Sale of Marks—DVLA cover costs with the bulk of the income passed to Treasury.

Trading Fund

  5.7.4  The Agency believes that it could most efficiently and effectively deliver its services within a financial regime that permits the recovery of a higher proportion of operating costs through fees and charges levied on its customers. The Agency considers that the optimum regime would be a trading fund. In March 2000, DETR wrote to HM Treasury seeking agreement in principle to DVLA becoming a trading fund in April 2002. A joint DETR/ HM Treasury study group has been set up to discuss the way forward.

  5.7.5  Further details are provided in Appendix B.


 
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