Satpal Devgun - Kingstanding Postmistress (2)

The DVLA has signed a new contract with the Post Office, after over 100,000 people signed a National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) petition for DVLA services to be kept within the post office network

The contract means post offices can continue to provide their services for vehicle tax across the UK and driving licence photocard renewals in branches in GB. It will officially take effect on April 1st 2024, for one year, with the option to extend for a further two years. 

“We thank all our colleagues who promoted the offline petition in their post offices, lobbied their MPs and contacted the local press,” said the NFSP. “We also have to thank the 100,000 customers who signed the petition, and PO for all the work they have done internally to bring the contract back on board.”

Kingstanding Post Office & Gift Shop owner Satpal Devgun was one of the first postmasters to start up a petition in store, collecting an incredible 2,000 signatures in three months. “Nobody hesitated once to sign that petition, even the youngsters,” she told Convenience Store. “I know iPhones, this, that and the other are really good, but a lot of people are not Internet savvy at all.

“We can’t afford to lose business … It was a big thing to me because I’ve got a lot of car dealers around our area who come to me for on Saturday afternoons when they’ve sold a car and they have to get it taxed straight away so that the customer can drive the car away. But what was going to happen to them was that they would have had to send off all the paperwork and stuff, whereas now they just come in, come rain or shine.”

If the DVLA services had not been kept within the post office network, Satpal explained that not only would her shop miss out on DVLA business, but also on vital incremental sales. “My staff were really worried because if we lost the DVLA contract, they thought I wouldn’t need them because I wouldn’t have been having that extra footfall. When people come in, who don’t normally use a post office and, say they’re just coming in because they’re going to come and tax their car, they look at other stuff and they buy something whilst they’re in the shop or [use another post office service] - the conversation leads to different transactions.” 

Kington Main postmaster Tim Allen, who attended Downing Street to hand in the petition with the NFSP in November, said: ““When so many people are involved in a campaign like this it’s hard to know where the credit lies but the power of the petition and the signature of the individual are clearly alive and well when the cause is important enough.”

Barnards Green postmaster Jenny Cain also attended Downing Street to deliver the petition. She said: “What absolutely fantastic news both for postmasters and for the general public. A very sensible decision that will mean access to all for such an important service.”

NFSP CEO Calum Greenhow said: “This just shows what can be achieved when everybody works together. We thank all our customers for their support. Collectively 100,000 people signed our petition across the United Kingdom and we’re grateful that has encouraged DVLA to look closely at any offline provision that is required. They can see that the Post Office network is vital in providing services of public economic interest.”

NFSP public affairs manager Ruth Buckley-Salmon added: “A big thank you to everyone for their help in promoting this campaign. The result highlights what can be achieved when the NFSP membership works together. We will continue to campaign for Government services to remain at post office counters as we believe everyone has a right to in-person access.”

Scottish National Party MP for Motherwell and Wishaw Marion Fellows, who is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Post Offices, gave the petition her backing, describing the idea of removing DVLA services from the Post Office as “abominable”.

She said: “While recent news on DVLA services is a positive … my clear message is that removing DVLA services from the Post Office network – now or in the future – is unacceptable. Post offices are vital in providing access to cash and face to face services for elderly people, people with a disability or those who have no online access. Post offices provide this, and the UK government should be supporting that, not undermining it.”

The importance of these services remaining in branch comes as research commissioned by Post Office with 2001 Brits reveals over three quarters (78%) of those surveyed who hold a licence believe it is important that there is the option to access DVLA services at a Post Office branch.

The in-person services, which are available in selected branches across the UK, allow customers to get the support of their local Ppostmaster to complete these important transactions, offering the option to pay in cash instead of card, a preference for millions of people across the UK.

The in-branch services also provide peace of mind for customers as they know their transactions will be completed correctly, which is the main reason why 61% of those who responded to the survey who hold a licence like going to their local Post Office to renew their driving licence or pay vehicle tax.

Customers also enjoy the face-to-face interaction with their Postmaster (31%) this service gives them, with almost a quarter preferring to complete important transactions in person rather than online (28%).

Purchasing vehicle tax or renewing a driving licence can be worrying, especially if it’s the first time. Over a quarter (26%) of those surveyed who hold a licence when they first took out their vehicle tax and/or driving licence said they were worried they may make a mistake and 22% needed to ask for help from someone who knew what to do. Of these people, 45% said they’d feel more comfortable if they had someone to talk to in person, with 39% specifically saying speaking to a Postmaster at a Post Office branch would make them feel more comfortable.

More than 5.5 million customers every year use the Post Office for DVLA services, and some 20% of customers who responded to the survey said they liked the efficiency of being able to carry out their personal admin under one roof by going into the branch to use this and other services in one go.

Elinor Hull, Retail, Government and Identity Services Director, said: “In person DVLA services are just one of many vital services our postmasters offer to customers in their local community. Our in-branch services provide a valuable lifeline to those who may not be comfortable with completing transactions online or who would like assistance as part of the process. Postmasters are rightly pleased that they can continue to provide this valuable face to face service and guidance to their customers, giving them a choice in how they’d like to renew vehicle tax and UK driving licence photocards.”