More than half a million drivers have waited more than 10 weeks to receive their new driving licenses after applying for renewal by post, figures have shown.
People are facing loss of employment and have been unable to travel abroad to events including family funerals due to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency backlog of paper applications, MPs have claimed as they demand action.
Despite drivers being warned that applications may take up to 10 weeks, as of the start of September, 517,881 drivers had waited longer than 10 weeks for approval, the Telegraph reports.
The data, obtained via a Freedom of Information request by the newspaper, also showed that there were 185,385 outstanding applications requiring a medical decision which were more than 10 weeks old.
Figures obtained by FOI show that more than half a million drivers have been waiting more than 10 weeks for their driving licence renewal applications to be approved by the DVLA
Learner drivers are waiting up to SIX MONTHS for their test
Earlier this month, it was revealed more than 500,000 learner drivers were waiting up to 24 weeks to take their test due to a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The average waiting time is currently 14 weeks, the DVSA said, but some learners are being handed a slot that is up to 24 weeks away.
Peter Hearn, operations director at the DVSA, told the Commons Transport Committee: ‘We normally expect a backlog of about 250,000 tests – we’re double that at the moment.
‘We have had significant periods in which we have not been able to test drivers so we are now in a period in which we are trying to recover those services.
‘We’re doing lots of additional things right across the organisation with additional hours, we’re bringing people in that can test.’
Mr Hearn told the committee the agency was recruiting extra staff, including examiners and support staff, and said they had already hired 90 with plans to bring in up to 300.
Driving tests were prohibited for 12 months as part of the Government’s response to prevent the spread of Covid and only resumed in April this year.
As a result, thousands of drivers were left unable to take their test, creating a backlog which now means some learners are waiting months for a slot.
The agency has said backlog is not expected to return to normal levels until 2023 but that they are implementing several measures to tackle the waiting list including a recruitment drive and looking to the private sector to help with testing.
The DVLA has said they have hired more staff and secured more office space in a bid to tackle the backlog of paper applications, which has been blamed on rolling industrial action and social distancing.
Earlier this month, four out of five members of the Public and Commercial Services Union who voted supported continued strike action which has taken place throughout the year.
But only just under 40 per cent of those balloted actually voted, below the legal threshold of 50 per cent, forcing the union to seek urgent negotiations with DVLA senior management to discuss remaining Covid health and safety concerns.
The backlog has prompted 62 MPs from across the political divide to sign a letter addressed to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to take action.
Learners, the elderly and those with medical conditions have been hit by the longest waits for documents from the DVLA.
The delays mean that those who have submitted important ID documents, such as their passport, as part of their application are often left in limbo and unable to retrieve their documents until their application is processed.
When the pandemic struck, drivers were given an automatic extension to expiring licences and new website services for logbook changes were introduced to reduce demand on understaffed DVLA offices in Swansea.
The agency urged people to apply for renewals online as that service had not been impacted by the pandemic but those who need to submit sensitive medical and identity documents as part of their applications must do so by post.
The letter from MPs, organised by Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat member for Richmond Park, says that applicants are being left in precarious situations because of the backlog.
It states: ‘The delays have now reached a level where, in certain cases, our constituents face losing employment owing to the lack of certainty on when they will legally be able to drive.
‘Furthermore, we are also aware of severe delays in the time taken to return applicants’ submitted documentation.
‘Notably, when individuals have submitted important ID, such as passports, they are often unable to find out when these might be returned.’
The elderly and those with medical conditions have been the worst hit by the DVLA backlog
The letter adds that some constituents have been unable to travel abroad to family events including funerals as a result of not having had their passports returned to them.
MPs acknowledge the DVLA is ‘currently under immense pressure’ due to an ongoing health and safety dispute with the Public and Commercial Services Union as well as delays caused by the pandemic.
Before Covid struck, the agency said the expected target for processing most renewals was 10 days.
A DVLA spokesman said: ‘We handle millions of transactions every year and demand to speak to our contact centre is currently very high.
‘Our staff are working hard to answer queries but there will be delays for customers who call.
‘However, we have recruited more staff, have increased overtime and secured extra office space in Swansea and Birmingham to help reduce waiting times for customers. We are issuing around 200,000 driving licences each week.
‘There are no delays with our online services and we encourage customers to use these where possible.’
Earlier this month, it was reported that a third of staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) are still working from home.
Source: Daily Mail UK