Hundreds of DVLA staff skip work on full pay despite application backlogs

18 March 2022, 12:10 | Updated: 18 March 2022, 12:28

DVLA staff were off work on full pay despite the application backlog crisis
DVLA staff were off work on full pay despite the application backlog crisis. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Hundreds of DVLA staff were sent home on full pay during the pandemic amid the application backlog crisis that contributed to chaos for the UK supply chain.

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Most of the 6,200 staff at the government agency were sent home during the first lockdown, with 3,400 of them being put on paid special leave without having to work at all, a Times investigation found.

Months later, almost 2,000 staff were still on paid special leave, without the expectation to do any work even from home. In nine of the last 24 months, over 500 members were said to not be working - paid on special leave or strike.

The move meant staff were being paid to do nothing, with the paper's undercover investigation reportedly finding that managers boasted about spending days in bed watching TV.

The training manager said: "My manager would be messaging me, can you do this? and I’d be like, you’re interrupting my series on Netflix."

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It comes as millions of drivers were delayed in renewing their licences or applying for one throughout the pandemic due to backlogs.

The issue came to light during the petrol crisis at the end of 2021, where there was a backlog of more than 56,000 applications for vocational licences needed by all lorry and bus drivers.

The DVLA said it understood the impact delays had on customers and that some might be able to keep driving while applications were being processed - if they had not been told otherwise by their doctor or optician - according to the paper.

The agency added that those with medical issues had been further delayed because NHS staff had to prioritise other work during the pandemic.

In response to the investigation, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, ordered a “thorough investigation”, saying he was “deeply concerned” and that he “expects quick answers” from DVLA bosses.

A spokesman for Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Taxpayers expect prompt, efficient service from DVLA and, with the threat of Covid diminishing, there is no excuse for excessive delay."

The Department for Transport told The Times: "We take these allegations extremely seriously."