The introduction of new driving licences and a move to a new, centralised processing system, drew the ire of councillors at the December meeting of South Tipperary County Council.
While welcoming the introduction of a new, credit card sized licence, many councillors criticised the change to a centralised system, which will see the local Motor Tax office no longer issue driving licences.
From January the Road Safety Authority will have responsibility for driver licences in Ireland and a National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) will deliver the service.
As part of this new system the current paper driver licence and learner permit will begin to be replaced by credit card-sized, plastic licences in an EU-wide change to upgrade all driver licences.
At present, learner permit and driver licence applications are processed and licences issued by the Motor Taxation Office. From January 12 the Motor Taxation Office will process driving licence applications but will not be issuing driving licences. This will continue until September 30, 2013, at which time the entire service will be transferred to the NDLS.
The new style licence card will be produced and delivered by a specialist company contracted by the RSA from January 19.
Cllr Tom Wood said he was disappointed that a service that has been available to constituents through the local authority office is being removed ‘to a distant location.’ “It makes me laugh when I see big documents like we got here today ‘Putting People First’ when at the same time a local government office, which has provided services, is now being taken away and centralised. It’s to the detriment of local authorities and the people at large.”
There was agreement from Cllr Pat English who raised the current “disaster” of the third level grants system, which was centralised for the first time this year. “The service belongs where people are paying for it,” he said. He went on to say that he fears an increase in the cost of a licence.
However Cllr Michael Murphy said he had “every confidence” in the RSA providing a good service, in the same way they have been “excellent in reducing fatalities on the roads.”
Cllr Richie Molloy said he objected to the centralisation because “there is nothing stopping our own local office from issuing plastic cards.”
County Manager, Billy McEvoy, said it was an EU-wide initiative and it would also address security issues with driving licences.
“We have provided a magnificent service through the Motor Tax Office and I thank them for the service over the years, but things change and we have to move forward.”
There will also be some changes to driving licence categories, in the new year.