back to article E-government is working for DVLA

A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) on the use of technology by UK vehicle licensing agencies has found that rare beast - a working government IT project. It's worth noting though that data security was not part of the government spending watchdog's brief this time. The NAO looked at six services from three agencies …


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  1. Mike

    Profiting from selling driver details to scammers

    Well their system of selling drivers' details to private parking ticket scammers certainly seems to be doing good business - I guess profit is how they define 'working' these days....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair ....

    ... the DVLC (as 'twas) was an earlier adopter of IT (1960s), so had had a chance to shake the wrinkles out ... (if you consider 40 years acceptable).

    More telling, is the underlying presumption that in those 40 years, the DLVA have had a chance to evolve procedures and protocols to integrate with the IT, rather than sit alongside it.

    Wasn't the DVLC project orignally in-house ? (Well ICL, which was the same thing way back when).

    Oh, and to all readers who are under 30, ask your parents about the running gags about "Swansea" in the 70s ......

  3. Steve

    "a case to stop using paper tax discs entirely."

    Would this case run along the lines of;

    "We're going to have countrywide vehicle tracking through ANPR whether the public like it or not so why not just have checkpoints at strategic junctions that are hooked in to the road tax database. Bernard, get EDS on the phone."

    Transformational government - transforming from what you want into what they want.

  4. Ian


    If by working IT system you mean:

    - If you book a test in one area and want to check for cancellations in another area (i.e. if you live on the border of two counties as I do) you can't do so without cancelling your existing test, you can only view free dates in your current county

    - Still managing to lose a good few million drivers data in true government immune to data protection act breach style

    - Not actually having the facility to inform people that their test is cancelled before they turn up and instead waiting until said candidate has used a days leave to get off work to attend the test only to be told their test has been cancelled

    Then yes, I'd agree that this is indeed a working government IT project.

    I suppose it doesn't matter anyway, the only reason the DVLA exists now is to act as a money farming system for the goverment with their examiners that apparently use a random pass/fail generator without paying any attention to the skill of the actual driver being tested judging by the driving incompetence of some people on the road compared to the competence of many learner drivers and also the fact you could potential fail your driving theory test purely for not knowing off by heart what personal details are included on a driving counterpart license (knowing those details makes you a better driver than someone who just physically checks it how exactly??).

    I've seen so many people screwed by the DVLA, not all of it is their IT system, and when it works it works quite nicely, but it's hardly fault free and has plenty of nonsensical quirks in it that you wont see in most private sector businesses' systems.

    Still I suppose we could still praise purely for being better than most goverment IT systems, not that that's much of an achievement nor even particularly a hard achievement to reach.

  5. bob_blah


    "We're going to have countrywide vehicle tracking through ANPR whether the public like it or not so why not just have checkpoints at strategic junctions that are hooked in to the road tax database"

    Given that we don't even have a permanent speed camera on the island where I live, I'm all for this! Not having to pay road tax, and then not using the car on the weekend when the guys with the ANPR gear come up from Aberdeen for their 6 monthly 'blitz' - sweet!

  6. Matt

    The least crappy

    Isn't this like saying that out of all the crappy projects this is one of the least crappy?

    I should also point out that Customs has had IT (or ADP to use it's old name) since the 60s. Their IT was rarely great, but it's interesting that the quality managed to drop in direct comparison to the amount of involvement of outside companies.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Working your having a laugh!!

    I tried the DVLA website to get a new licence, kept getting kicked out of the site every time I tried to use it from work or home

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Great Service

    I lost my driving license and V5 recently after I had got them out to renew my parking permit. I was surprised and delighted when they both came back in under a week after requesting new ones online.

    OK so the government, local and national, are attacking drivers at every level as they are a ready source of funds that should be raised by normal taxation schemes. But here is one area that actually works!

    Paris - because you would wouldn't you

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not ditch the car tax altogether?

    It is a flat tax per year, but we want people to drive less, so it would be better related to fuel consumption. But then we already have fuel tax for that.

    It was originally justified as a way to check the insurance document, but it always had the problem that the DRIVER's insurance was being checked but the VEHICLEs tax was being renewed. Anyway, the license plate gives the insurance details now, no longer needed as a check.

    It was justified as a way to check the MOT test state, but again the license plate reveals that now. You can see the car registration plate easier than the tax disc.

    There's no causal link between not paying car tax and unsafe cars. It isn't the lack of car tax that causes the unsafe car, it's the unsafe car that causes the lack of car tax.... but you can check the MOT directly now. You no longer need the car tax as an indicator of MOT status.

    So this tax has had it's day.

  10. Tom

    DSA != DVL[AC]

    @Ian - The DSA are responsible for driving tests, not the DVLA.

    @Anonymous Coward - Re Swansea jokes. Yes Minister (and Yes Prime Minister) had frequent references to the DVLC in Swansea.

    I can see the DVLA building from my house, well if I lean out of the window a bit I can - but it took them 4 weeks to change the address on my driving licence, and will proberbly take another 4 weeks when I send it back because they have the address wrong.

  11. TeeCee Gold badge

    Easy really.

    1) Change your public-friendly real-world processes to something so tightly bolted down, labyrinthine and draconian that Stalin would be proud.

    2) Double check to ensure you have eliminated all judgement and common sense, producing something where every last single process is reduced to ticks in boxes neatly tied up in read tape.

    3) Legislate to ensure that anyone not ticking *exactly* the right boxes or not following the red tape to the letter gets the book thrown at them.

    4) Automate it.

    I'm not surprised it works. Once you've done 1 through 3, 4 is *really* simple. Doesn't make it any good though.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Why not ditch the car tax altogether?

    Because that would mean giving the motorist a break, and we can't have that!! I completely agree with you that the road tax should be scrapped and use tax on fuel instead, except we already pay Waaaaay to much tax on fuel as it is, so really we need to scrap road tax and reduce fuel tax seeing as most journeys ARE compulsory. Oh while we're at it, why do we pay tax on insurance which we're legally obliged to have!?

  13. Dave


    You have to admit that the shine on this turd is still better than the rest of them....

  14. John Chadwick

    Not quite as good as they think it is.

    The online Road Tax system has one small flaw. It can't cope with your Tax and Insurance running out at the same time, don't know about MOT because I'm not there yet but I couldn't use the service because the Insurance feed said I hadn't renewed, even though I had, so I couldn't use the service.

    Now let me see, if you buy a car, then your Insurance, Tax and MOT are all going to expire around the same time aren't they?

    @Great Service, yup agree, lost both my V5s and the arrive in the post 3 days later after a phone call.

    @Ditch Tax By the way if you lower fuel tax and abolish car tax, other taxes will go up, government needs a certain amount a revenue to function. Tax is also not just about raising revenue, it is a mechanism to guide change and behaviour. Put up Tax on something to discourage use. Road tax for example is being used to encourage the use of some vehicles, and discourage others, though not by much to most of us. It also acts a visible sign that for most of us for at least one day of the year our vehicle was taxed, insured and roadworthy. Even if next month we can stop our insurance, and bribe a dodgy MOT garage, most of us don't.

  15. Matt

    @John Chadwick and Dave

    @Dave: Fair point :-)

    @John Chadwick: If cars and especially petrol weren't in-elastic in demand you might have a point. Collecting the same amount of tax from VAT would be a much cheaper solution. So the government would get more for each £ they collected.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @John Chadwick

    The point is, they charge an unfair amount on the motorist because they say they want us to stop driving, which as I said is normally out of necessity, (if I stopped driving I'd have catch the bus to my local train station, wait for the train, then get a taxi from the nearest train station to my office (about 7 miles), then reverse this to get home, every day). They don't want us to stop driving because if everyone did stop the government wouldn't generate enough cash to keep all their campaign promises (hmmm?). So basically people are forking out money to pay taxes to get to work, only to get more money taken off them through income tax when they arrive there!

    back on topic now.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Car Tax

    I was thinking about this the other day, and I don't like the idea of road charging schemes, as they are just an extra tax on top of everything else.

    So I thought about credits instead. After all, we are supposed to be trying to reduce emissions and unnecessary journeys. Take the Kyoto Treaty as an example. Every country gets a certain amount of credits, when they're gone, they either buy some from someone with spare or improve their efficiency to fall within their own limits.

    Why can't that work with cars ?

    Every licence holder gets given a certain amount of credits per year (1 credit = 1 mile) and they are free to use them as fast or slow as they wish. If they think they can get away with less, then they can flog them off to other more "needy" motorists on ebay.

    Admittedly the reduction of emissions argument is only a by product here, but with less traffic, total efficiency would be up anyway.

    Maybe I'm biased because I only drive less than 2000 miles per year (privately) and could benefit from such a plan, but there surely has to be a way to positively discourage car useage that largely consists of a free-form, accident prone train up the M4 (1,3,6,32, whatever) twice a day (that costs stupid amounts of cash just to have a private room while commuting).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ditch the tax

    "if you lower fuel tax and abolish car tax, other taxes will go up, government needs a certain amount a revenue to function."

    You really want that tax burden linked to CO2 output and since CO2 output is a direct relationship to fuel burned you want it related to fuel used not annual fixed flat fee. Plus it costs to collect that tax, it's cheaper to collect 1 tax than 2 different taxes collected 2 different ways.

    "Tax is also not just about raising revenue, it is a mechanism to guide change and behaviour. Put up Tax on something to discourage use. Road tax for example is being used to encourage the use of some vehicles, and discourage others, though not by much to most of us."

    Exactly, a minister decides an SUV is not green and a Prius is. Yet an SUV driven twice a year (and public transport the rest) is far more green than a Prius driven 365 times a year. He's making some arbitrary decision when a far more targetted option (solely fuel taxes) is available to him.

    Ministers have a sort of 'I made this decision and so it must be right, nah nah nah, I'm not listening' twatitude that you get when a government has been in power too long.

  19. Red Bren

    @Ditch the tax

    I agree with everyone else who says VED has had it's day, along with tax on compusory insurance. However cutting fuel duty as well is a step too far - our fuel tax may be the highest in Europe, but our overall tax burden is in the lowest sixth. Cut tax on fuel and you're only going to end up paying it on something else.

    The real problem is too much stick and not enough carrot. Make public transport so reliable, safe, ubiquitous and cheap, that ditching the car for routine journeys is the only sane option. As demand for public transport rises, costs drop further, investment increases and with less traffic on the road, so does reliability. And less traffic means less road repair and building costs so taxes can come down.

    Welcome to my happy communist collective! Of course, there will always be some miserable buggers who would rather spend an hour in their isolated SUVs, moaning about the traffic jams that they helped cause, instead of 15 minutes on the bus with the rest of the proles...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    En France....

    re a case to stop using paper tax discs entirely."

    Allo Rost Biffs

    We have not the tax for ze car, we have ze little sticker for the insurance, and another little sticker for our CT, how you say in Biff land, ze MOT.

    Le CT sticker, she has a little holes for the year and the month when she is done, this CT every deux years for 50 Euro's, every other year, free, a test for the springy things.

    So Monsiuer Allo Allo can see our little stickers and see we are good citoyans.

    Tres simple, nes pas?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Running the numbers

    Well the numbers seem to be here:

    They made 28.2 billion in total from fuel taxes (duty and vat) in 2006.

    They made 5 billion from vehicle excise duty.

    So fuel taxes are nearly 6x vehicle duty. I think if they turned around and said "we make 33 billion on fuel plus road tax, we're going to eliminate road tax and stick it all on fuel, it's tax neutral, but if you drive less, you save money, if you drive more and you pay more. Up to you. If you drive an SUV, reduce the driving and you'll save a lot, switch to a more fuel efficient car and you'll save a lot, drive during less congested times and you'll save a lot, leave the car at home every now and again and you save a lot."

    As fuel gets more scarce, I figure it will encourage people to drive less and less and only use the car when the have no choice. But I don't think anyone can magically do without a car, and suddenly public transport will work! It has to be gradual and they have to be able to save money by switching to public transport.

    As it is, public transport cost the public 5 billion a year even if they don't make a single journey. They can't realistically do without a car, so they pay the 5 billion a year regardless.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ Running the numbers

    Mate you are a genius, don't know why you made yourself anonymous. thats the best idea ever, if people choose to drive normal cars they end up the same. if they drive tiny little poo wagons they save money and if they choose to get in everyone elses way by driving a 4x4 at 2 miles an hour in a congested London. they pay loads. its brilliant.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    I can still remember when Maggie decided to drop the RFL

    Petrol Duty took a massive hike in the budget preparatory to abolishing the RFL, but politics being as it is, they got away with double collecting, had another crisis to take our minds off it and dropped the scheme.

    They never rescinded the petrol tax hike though.

    I'm not sure if the problems are with the IT or with this pathetic government who make and change rules without any regard for viability, justness, or consequence.

    A vehicle does not have to have insurance if it is not used upon the road. It is possible to have third party cover on other vehicles not owned by you and so it is valid to want to tax a vehicle in case you need to use it, or in fact when you have just purchased it and arranged immediate cover, however the system does not allow for this and so the car may have a valid MOT, valid insurance and you may be willing to Tax it but you can't. Far fetched ? One chap even phoned them to say he had to leave his 'new' vehicle outside his sister's house while he made room for it on his drive, whilst he waited for the insurance paperwork to arrive. They sent the squad round first thing in the morning and impounded the car and claimed for all the backtax!

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