Northern Ireland

Coleraine DVA jobs: Campaigners petition Downing Street

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe group from Northern Ireland that handed in a petition at Downing Street on behalf of 300 workers in Coleraine

Campaigners working to save 300 jobs at the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Coleraine, County Londonderry, have taken their plea to 10 Downing Street.

On Wednesday, a delegation of DVA staff members, politicians, union and business representatives handed in a petition with over 40,000 signatures.

The UK government wants to centralise services at the DVA in Swansea, Wales.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said a decision on the NI jobs would be made at Westminster within five weeks.

There has been uncertainty over the future of the jobs in Coleraine for nearly two years.

The UK government said centralising services would save money and allow drivers in Northern Ireland to tax vehicles online and by phone.

But there has been an energetic campaign against the move by those who believe the job losses would have a devastating impact on an area of Northern Ireland that is already struggling with high unemployment.

It has the backing of all of Northern Ireland's political parties and business leaders.

Claire Wilson, who works at the Coleraine DVA office, said: "It is a constant worry. When you do your job every day, you think about the fact that if you were not there, what would people do?

"From a personal point of view, you are thinking about paying the bills. In our area of Coleraine, there is nothing else out there.

"It's difficult, especially coming up to Christmas, trying to live under this shadow. We've been doing it for two years now.

"It's difficult every day you go into work to try and keep yourself motivated and to keep the rest of the team motivated."

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Ivan Lewis said the decision to close the Coleraine office was "short- sighted".

"It is a cause of real concern that staff at the DVA centre in Coleraine are living with such anxiety and insecurity in the run up to Christmas.

"The closure of the DVA centre is an issue of massive importance to local people and the local economy. It will have a really damaging impact on the whole area and is a serious threat to a lot of jobs in the area."

The public service union, Nipsa, is among those backing the campaign to keep the jobs in Northern Ireland.

'Illogical'

Assistant secretary Ryan McKinney said the union contacted 1,500 motor dealers across Northern Ireland.

"There are genuine concerns that businesses will suffer because dealers will run into difficulties when selling vehicles," he said.

He described the decision as "unnecessary and illogical".

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron said a private sector "revival" was the answer to transforming Northern Ireland's economy.

Speaking during Prime Minister's questions, he said the public sector was still very large in Northern Ireland.

He said that since the last General Election in 2010, employment had risen by 32,000 in Northern Ireland.

Mr Cameron was responding to a question by SDLP MP Mark Durkan who asked him about proposals that threaten DVA and HMRC jobs in Northern Ireland.

More on this story