Prime Minister questioned on test centre closures

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PRIME Minister David Cameron has lent his support to the campaign to stave off the closure of the Driving Standards Agency’s test centres in Forfar and Arbroath.

He was drawn into the campaign last week by Angus MP Mike Weir who took the fight to save the centres direct to the P.M.

Mr Weir used a rare Prime Minister’s Question to highlight the way in which the centres were threatened with closure without any consultation whatsoever.

He has previously held a parliamentary debate on the subject and has written to the Transport Minster involved, but given the timescale and the imminent closure of the office on March 18, he took the opportunity to take the matter directly to the Prime Minister.

Commenting on the closures Mr Weir said: “It is completely unacceptable that the Driving Standards Agency can act in this high handed and undemocratic way.

“They simply announced the closure of the centres in a letter about the opening of the new multi-purpose test centre in Dundee. There was no consultation with either the community or the instructors affected by the move.

“Since raising the issue in Parliament I have had representations from all over the UK where similar decisions have been taken.

“The Prime Minister says his government wishes to give more power to local people but such decisions have the very opposite effect – they remove services without any consultation or consideration of alternatives.

“There should now be a halt to such closures until there is full consultation and a consideration of ways in which a test service can be maintained in Angus and other rural areas.”

In his question to David Cameron Mr Weir asked if the Prime Minister was aware driving test centres in his constituency were being closed without any consultation whatsoever with the local community and instructors.

“Surely that is the complete opposite of localism?

“Will the Prime Minister lean over and instruct his Transport Secretary to put a stop to such closures until there has been, at the very least, a consultation with the local community and the consideration of alternative ways to provide the service?”

In response the Prime Minister said: “I understand the importance of these facilities in rural communities and, as I understand it, the chief executive of the Driving Standards Agency has said she will explore further how they can continue to offer facilities in these locations. I will get the Under Secretary of State, the Hon Member for Hemel Hempstead, to contact the Hon Gentleman to discuss this issue with him.”

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s response Mr Weir said he was “cautiously optimistic”.

He said: “Clearly the campaign had made progress with the Prime Minister giving a clear commitment that the Chief Executive of the Driving Standards Agency will look at alternatives to ensure continued provision of the service in Angus. I look forward to the promised meeting with the Minister to thrash out the issue fully.

“Time is, however, tight and I still believe the UK government should suspend closures until such time as there can be full and comprehensive consultation with the local communities and those directly affected by the decisions. Talk is easy but we urgently need action before the centres close and the service disappears. I will continue to pursue this matter through all available channels.”