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A staggering backlog of 1.4million postal items is waiting to be processed by driving licence officials – leaving motorists in limbo.

Learners, the elderly and those with medical conditions have been hit by the longest waits for documents from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

The number of letters has almost doubled in recent weeks because of Covid restrictions on staff and lengthy strike action. Prior to the pandemic the backlog stood at about 400,000 items.

MPs will this week grill a Department for Transport minister along with DVLA and trade union bosses over the worsening situation.

Learners, the elderly and those with medical conditions have been hit by the longest waits for documents from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. A stock image is used above

Learners, the elderly and those with medical conditions have been hit by the longest waits for documents from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. A stock image is used above

Learners, the elderly and those with medical conditions have been hit by the longest waits for documents from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. A stock image is used above

Last night, former Cabinet minister Lord Blunkett, who has tabled several parliamentary questions on the scandal, said: ‘This is causing enormous frustration to very many people who need either the renewal or small alterations to continue living their lives or carrying out their business.’

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.

Yet a backlog built up all the same with 127,870 paper licences waiting to be processed by September 1, as some applications including medical forms cannot be completed online while sensitive identification documents can only be checked in person. As of January 18, there were 66,228 licences in the pile.

In June, 800,000 unopened items of post were reported. It has almost doubled since then due to continuing limits on the numbers of staff who can be in the office, combined with strike action by the Public and Commercial Services union initially called in March over workplace safety fears.

Whitehall sources insist that millions have been spent making the offices Covid-secure and accuse the union of targeting the public.

The number of letters has almost doubled in recent weeks because of Covid restrictions on staff and lengthy strike action. Prior to the pandemic the backlog stood at about 400,000 items [File photo]

The number of letters has almost doubled in recent weeks because of Covid restrictions on staff and lengthy strike action. Prior to the pandemic the backlog stood at about 400,000 items [File photo]

The number of letters has almost doubled in recent weeks because of Covid restrictions on staff and lengthy strike action. Prior to the pandemic the backlog stood at about 400,000 items [File photo]

The DVLA website states that applications to amend names and addresses that were posted on May 18, almost two months ago, are only now being dealt with and motorists are being told to wait nearly two months before they get their documents back.

Steven Sorley, a senior school leader from Irvine, North Ayshire, uses hand controls to drive after damaging his spine in a car crash.

Entitled to 50 per cent road tax reduction, he sent in the required paperwork on May 20. But the documents had still not been returned by the following month, when the 47-year-old decided to trade in his Nissan for a more accessible Subaru. 

A garage agreed a deal on the car but as time went on, Mr Sorley’s ‘anxiety levels went through the roof’.

‘My mum found me in floods of tears after the post had arrived with no sign of the returned paperwork ‘, he said.

It arrived on July 14, but Mr Sorely now has to go through the process again to get his licence plate transferred.

He added: ‘Why does it take moments to tax a new vehicle online when you collect it at the garage, but takes over nine weeks to get a reduced tax application processed? Surely, this is discrimination towards disabled drivers.’

A DVLA spokesman said: ‘Our online services have not been impacted by the pandemic or industrial action and are running as normal and without delay.

‘There are delays in processing paper applications due to ongoing industrial action and social distancing requirements, which means that we have fewer staff than usual on site at any one time.

‘Paper applications are taking on average, between six and ten weeks to process but there may be longer delays for more complex transactions such as those that require medical investigations.

‘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.

‘It’s disappointing that the Public and Commercial Services Union is choosing to continue with industrial action and targeting services that will have the greatest negative impact on the public, including some of the more vulnerable people in society, just as restrictions are starting to ease.’

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