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Since the early 1990s, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Driving Standards Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency have made some of their services available either through the internet, by telephone or through business to business computer systems. A report released today by the National Audit Office has found that these developments have improved accessibility to these services and are expected to provide savings in the future.

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Between them, the agencies provide services for 42 million drivers, the owners of 36 million vehicles and 100,000 commercial vehicle operators in Great Britain. To date, fifteen services are available electronically; these include applying for provisional driving licences, booking driving tests, taking driving theory tests and buying car tax. During 2006-07, some 50 million transactions were handled electronically.

By introducing electronic versions of these services, customers benefit from increased availability and a reduction in turnaround time. All the services examined by the NAO are achieving high levels of customer satisfaction. For example, 93 per cent of customers who paid their car tax, 88 per cent of candidates applying for their provisional driving licence, and 97 per cent of those booking the driving theory test online or using the phone were satisfied with the service. There should also be savings of at least £33 million (after taking account of development costs).

Although overall take up for electronic services is high, and in some cases exceeded expectations, others have missed their original forecasts. For example, in 2006-07, while 85 per cent of those upgrading from a provisional to a full driving licence have done so electronically, only 4 per cent of those applying for a provisional driving licence did so, against a forecast of 25 per cent.

Of those who applied for a provisional driving licence online, around 90 per cent were unable to complete their transaction electronically. Many of these are teenagers who currently do not possess either a credit record or a digital passport, needed in order to complete the process online. Each electronic application that subsequently needs to be completed using paper forms costs £1 more to process than the traditional paper-based application.

In some cases, the agencies had to revise estimates of financial savings since the initial evaluation. For instance, the financial benefits of introducing car tax sales online were recalculated to account for changes to fees charged by the Post Office and some online services were introduced later than planned – in most cases by less than a year, although the commercial vehicle operators’ electronic service was delayed by almost three years.

The Driving Standards Agency and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency phased the introduction of their services in line with good practice and made extensive use of customer feedback.

The report found there was scope to increase take up, make further efficiencies and generate savings. For example, more new drivers might be able to apply for a provisional driving licence online should the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency be able to use other online checks to validate identity.

“Bringing services online can save money and raise the quality of the service received. I am pleased to see that, by following good practice, the Agencies have improved the service they offer drivers. However, there is scope for improvement, and I would urge the Department to continue to evaluate current pilots and investigate ways of using the technology to further improve the services offered.”

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office


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