East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman Roy Beggs MLA has voiced concerns at the lengthy time it is taking for a five-stage recruitment process to be realised for much needed driving examiners.
Roy Beggs MLA, UUP Infrastructure Spokesperson, speaking during a recent Infrastructure Committee meeting said;
“I appreciate that there has been a significant increase in testing, and staff have been working evenings and weekends. However, they can do that for only so long, and I am concerned that there is still a considerable backlog.
Mention was made of a five-stage recruitment process, and the new driving examiners who were promised before the summer have not even been recruited yet. I am concerned that there is a lack of urgency to bring on additional staff to deal with the problem. Will it be two years before the backlog is addressed?
A constituent advised me of the experience that he had on Monday when he tried to get on to the website to look at test availability. He was number 440 in the queue, and it took him 32 minutes to access the website, never mind book a test. There is huge pressure there, and I do not see movement at senior management level or, frankly, at ministerial level. We need to do something to improve that. There is a crisis. We have a just-in-time industry and a shortage of drivers. It is estimated that there has been an increase from 45,000 to 76,000 vacancies in the United Kingdom, with Brexit and COVID adding to the problems and with the Eastern European drivers, who we were heavily reliant on, having gone home. The question I am coming to is this: what are we going to do in Northern Ireland to address the problem, which is resulting in gaps on our supermarket shelves?
Jeremy Logan, Chief Executive of the DVA responded to the MLA, stating:
“We are at the final stage of the process, which is making formal offers for the training. That training is due to commence in October — in the next couple of weeks, in fact. I will give you an idea of the scale of the five-stage process. There were 150 applicants, they had to be sifted down for interview and panels had to be set up for that interview process. As you will appreciate, logistics and time are associated with that. There will also be a special 90-minute driving test for the candidates that are brought forward for training in order to assure us that they will make the grade as a driving examiner at the end of that investment in training. As I pointed out, not everyone will make the grade. That is one of the unfortunate things, but we will not compromise the integrity of our training in order to bring those driving examiners forward. Unfortunately, that process is dictated by the timescales, and we are working very closely with NICS HR to ensure that we can deliver that as quickly as we can. I am very hopeful that, at the end of the training, we will have at least six new full-time examiners. They will augment our driving examiner resource and the dual-role resource that has done so much over the summer period to increase our testing capacity.”
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs responded adding; “It seems to be exceptionally slow. We have been told that there is a five-stage process and that it will take some time. We were pressing on that issue before the summer, and I am shocked to find that we do not have additional testers in place two months later.”