There are fears for the future of the Post Office if the DVLA withdraws its contract.
The National Federation of Sub postmasters (NFSP) has been told that its contract with the DVLA may not be renewed, and as the Post Office carries out over 6 million DVLA transactions a year, this could be catastrophic.
Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS Mabon ap Gwynfor met representatives from the NFSP at the Senedd where concerns were shared about the future viability of the network and a need to safeguard key services such as banking and over-the-counter driving licence renewals.
There are 969 post offices in Wales supporting 2,830 jobs. Of the 11,500 post offices in the UK, less than 9,500 are full-time, full-service branches.
There are mounting concerns at the pace at which services are being digitised and access to face-to-face, over-the-counter services diminishing.
Mr ap Gwynfor and MP Liz Saville Roberts say it is vital local post offices and the services they provide rural communities are safeguarded.
Mr ap Gwynfor said: “Post Offices play a vital role in our communities, particularly in more rural, hard-to-reach areas.
“Sadly, many rural branches have now closed, and we are witnessing the rapid decline of over-the-counter services at remaining branches.
“Many high street banks have turned their backs on our towns and tell their customers to use the post office to carry out financial transactions. This, despite the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) now limiting the amount of cash people can deposit at their local post office branch.
“These limits impact on the amount personal and business banking customers can deposit at post office counters.
“This will significantly harm small businesses and charities and organisations such as chapels and churches.
“To compound the pressure on post offices, the NFSP have been informed that the DVLA contract is also now under threat of non-renewal. This would result in all DVLA transactions being withdrawn by 2024. Currently, the Post Office carries out over 6 million DVLA transactions annually. If the DVLA contract is lost, this will have a huge impact on remuneration and the viability of the entire post office network. Furthermore, over half of DVLA transactions made over post office counters are paid for in cash. If the contract is lost then the only option left will be online payments.
“The digitally excluded and the most vulnerable are the groups most impacted by this lack of face-to-face presence and I share concerns voiced by the NFSP whether this could lead to a breach of the Equality Act 2010 and the government’s own policy on access to cash and social inclusion.
“Post offices providing these important services locally must be safeguarded and I call on the UK government to ensure that the post office network isn’t further reduced and that the service provided at local branches such as cash deposits and driving licence renewals continue.”
Mrs Saville Roberts added: “The DVLA contract, which presently pays post offices to offer this vital service over the counter, will come to an end in March 2024. This is a potentially catastrophic move which will inevitably result in post offices closing.
“The Post Office carries out over 6 million DVLA transactions every year, contributing around £3.2m a year to postmaster remuneration. If the DVLA contract is lost, this will be yet another blow upon remuneration and the viability of the entire network.
“Successive governments have asset-stripped the post office network of products and services over many years, denying the most vulnerable in our communities access to essential services.
“I call on the UK government to urgently intervene to ensure postmaster remuneration is not again stripped to the bone, which may result in postmasters around Wales no longer being able to provide Post Office services in our communities.”
The Cambrian News contacted the DVLA about its contract with the Post Office, asking if it is to end.
A spokesperson said the Post Office provide a “limited range” of DVLA services and a contract to do so had been extended until the end of March. We asked if the contract would end permanently after that, and we were told that unfortunately the DVLA cannot comment on the details of any potential future contract at this stage.
Responding to the initial enquiry, the DVLA spokesperson said: “The Post Office currently provide a limited range of DVLA’s services and an extension to the current contract has recently been agreed until 31 March. We want our customers to be able to access our services as quickly and as easily as possible, and the role of front office counter services will form part of the considerations of any future service offerings.”
The Cambrian News received the following information regarding the contract between the Post Office and the DVLA.
Post Office DVLA services are currently still in place as usual. The quickest and easiest way to renew the driving licence is online at www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence. Drivers can also renew by post using a D1 form. Motorists are able to tax their vehicle using our online and telephone services which are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by going to www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax or by calling 0300 1234 321, which is a fully automated service.