Norman English feels like one of the lucky ones after Raw Deal helped get his driving licence renewed following months of delays.
Tens of thousands of motorists have been affected by chaos at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) caused by backlogs and strike action.
More than one million licence applications have been submitted this year. Many people have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, with some saying they have been waiting longer than six months.
The DVLA has been dealing with a backlog for months at its Swansea HQ. It is operating with reduced staffing levels on site due to social distancing rules in Wales and industrial action by members of the Public and Commercial Service Union.
Norman, from Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, became caught up in the delays when he applied in March to renew his over-70s licence.
Being able to drive is essential for his musical instrument and repair business, Accordion Bay. “I often have to drive all over Scotland and the north of England to liaise with my customers,” he said. “Having an up-to-date licence is vital.”
Norman, who has twice made the Guinness Book Of World Records for playing the accordion for days on end, said trying to get his licence renewed turned into a “fiasco”.
“I filled in the application online only to find out I needed to also fill in a D1 completion form and include proof of ID plus my old driving licence cut in half,” he said.
“But the update on the website kept stating that they were waiting for the completion form, which I had already sent. I am not an impatient person but enough was enough as my licence was expiring early in July and I had made an early application to make sure I received the new one back in good time.
“I couldn’t get through to the DVLA by phone and my emails only received auto-replies that gave me a case number. If I ran my own business like that, I wouldn’t last very long.”
Adding to his anger, Norman faced cancelling a holiday in Yorkshire, as he wouldn’t be able to drive: “My stress levels were though the roof.”
We contacted the DVLA on his behalf and it wasn’t long before things got moving.
Norman was firstly given a two-month extension to his licence and days later his updated licence arrived in the post. The DVLA said it did not discuss individual cases but was dealing with a backlog of 1.4 million postal items. Paper applications on average are taking between six and 10 weeks to process but there are longer delays in the case of more complex transactions such as those requiring medical investigations.
The DVLA added: “Our online services have not been impacted by the pandemic or industrial action and are running as normal and without delay so we would urge customers to use these online services if they can.
“There are delays in processing paper applications due to industrial action and social distancing requirements which means we have fewer staff than usual on site at any one time.
“Once the driver has submitted their application, online or through the post, they may be able to continue to drive while we are processing it, provided they have not been told by their doctor or optician they should not drive.”
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