Vehicle agencies accept criticisms

27 Jan 00
Three executive agencies have been forced to take urgent action to improve their services as a result of a critical report from the Public Services Productivity Panel.

28 January 2000

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Highways Agency and the Driving Standards Agency have all agreed to extend their use of benchmarking against both public and private sector organisations.

The DVLA and the Highways Agency will also seek to improve their information and enquiry telephone lines.

'Mystery shoppers' commissioned by the productivity panel found that callers to the DVLA's enquiry line usually took up to three attempts to get through, with some people having to telephone 20 times.

One third of callers to the Highways Agency enquiring about roadworks received 'inadequate' information.

The Highways Agency said it had developed a ten-point plan to improve customer services, with the aim of offering accurate information to 80% of callers by August.

The DVLA accepted that there were 'particular customer service difficulties' when the review was undertaken, but said that its workload had grown from 16,000 to 24,500 calls a day. It aims to reduce the proportion of engaged lines to 4%–5% by the middle of 2000.

Andrew Foster, controller of the Audit Commission and the author of the panel's report, agreed that the DVLA dealt with a 'staggering' number of calls. 'They have a massive task,' he said.

'But when we looked at it, it wasn't being done very well. If you are serious about customer focus, somebody needs to answer the phone.'

He admitted that if it had been an Audit Commission report into a council or a trust 'we would have been very critical of them'.

Foster is the only public sector representative on the seven-strong panel. Dubbed the 'Magnificent Seven' on their appointment last August, each panel member will produce a personal report aimed at clamping down on waste and inefficiency in public services.

The aim is for the panel to highlight efficiency savings of £8bn a year by 2001/02.


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