By Claire West
Documents leaked to PCS from the Driving Standards Agency show senior managers have been hatching plans to close driving test centres and privatise tests.
The leaks, which follow evidence that the DSA executive board deliberately misled staff and the union regarding a decision to close the agency’s Cardiff office, prove there are plans to “make use of community centres, supermarkets etc as a base for examiners to work from”.
In one of the documents, transport minister Mike Penning told four MPs on 2 November 2010 he was looking at “whether driving tests could be provided more efficiently at a lower cost; and whether they could be undertaken by other organisations inside or outside of the public sector”.
Another document shows the DSA is exploring options around closing down test centres and allowing private firms to charge others to use their premises, with the suggestion private companies could be paid by the DSA for this.
The memo goes further in suggesting private firms could use more ‘delegated examiners’ - private testers whose pass rates are 20% higher than DSA examiners - leading to fears the driving test will be dumbed down as an incentive.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These new documents shed more light on the plans being hatched behind closed doors by senior managers and ministers.
“Worryingly, it is the latest evidence of the creeping privatisation of the agency’s work, which puts ideology before road safety.”