DVLA review looks to deliver digitisation

Government has announced that Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will be assessed to help meet objectives including addressing the ongoing prevalence of legacy tech and increasing use of digital services

The government has launched a review of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency that aims to address the organisation’s ageing tech and improve service levels through greater use of digital platforms.

The review is part of a wider programme of public body reform and will consider DVLA’s governance, accountability, efficacy and efficiency – the “four pillars” for the programme, which is being overseen by the Cabinet Office.

It will also consider the extent to which DVLA enables wider government priorities and learns from the transformation agenda, making recommendations to ministers about future delivery arrangements and efficiencies – including greater digitisation.

The review comes months after MPs on the Public Accounts Committee criticised DVLA and the Department for Transport for a backlog of driving-licence applications. PAC said DVLA used “antiquated” operations and DfT was too “hands-off” in its management of the agency.

DVLA is an executive agency of DfT that maintains more than 51 million driver records and almost 40 million vehicle records.

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In 2022 to 2023, the agency issued 11.9 million driving licences and 16.8 million vehicle registration certificates. Its contact centre staff dealt with 13.3 million queries.

DVLA collects more than £7bn in vehicle excise duty each year. It is a net contributor to the Treasury, raising more than £260m annually through the sale and transfer of personalised registrations.

Janette Beinart, non-executive director of the Cabinet Office and National Highways and former vice president and global chief information officer at Shell International, has been appointed to lead the review. Beinart is expected to report her findings in early 2024.

Roads minister Richard Holden said: “DVLA plays a crucial role in making sure drivers and vehicles can get around legally, safely and with confidence, giving drivers peace of mind by storing their records safely and tackling vehicle tax evasion. With over 80% of transactions now being carried out online, this review will help us understand how the DVLA can continue to grow from strength to strength and how we can support it to become more digital to efficiently serve the increasingly digitally savvy driver.”

Welcoming the review as an opportunity to highlight the agency’s “commitment to delivering world-class services”,  DVLA non-executive chair Lesley Cowley OBE said: “It comes at an important time for DVLA, as we continue to launch new digital services and set ambitious targets for the future, as a forward-thinking, dynamic organisation.”

Using the Cabinet Office’s “four pillars”, the DVLA review will consider the extent to which the agency has the mandate and capability to meet its current responsibilities, as well as considering future responsibilities and strategy. These considerations fall under the efficacy pillar.

Under governance, Beinart will review existing arrangements, including the effectiveness of the board in holding DVLA’s executive to account and the diversity of its membership.

Accountability addresses DfT’s sponsorship of DVLA – one of the areas of weakness identified by the PAC report earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, efficiency will aim to identify savings of 5% in resource departmental expenditure limits as well as evaluating the effectiveness of DVLA’s funding model. The review terms of reference state that digitisation will be under the microscope as DVLA looks to maximise efficiency and build capability for the future.

The Public Bodies Review Programme launched in 2022, with several arm’s-length bodies coming into scope during the last 12 months. Both the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and National Highways – the two other agencies in DfT – will be reviewed in 2023/24.

Other high-profile public bodies due for review include the Disclosure and Barring Service, UK Space Agency, and Crown Prosecution Service.

Tim Gibson

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