Records of licence endorsements and disqualifications undermined in drive to privatisation

IMPACT trade union today (Thursday) claimed that records of driving licence endorsements and disqualifications were being undermined in order to ease the privatisation of driving licence applications and renewals. Speaking at the union’s Local Government Division conference in Wexford, Paul O’Halloran of IMPACT’s Dublin City branch said a recent Road Safety Authority circular to staff had revealed that new legislation would see endorsements abolished and disqualifications removed from drivers’ records when the term of disqualification expired.

“This is a break from previous practice, which is being implemented simply to ease privatisation. It is not in the public interest. It will conceal relevant information from insurers and employers, and could ultimately lead to more danger on our roads. And it is being done simply to streamline the driver licence system to facilitate its privatisation,” he said.

Mr O’Halloran said driving licence applications and renewals was one of a number of high quality and value-for-money services being stripped from local authorities. He said the function had been transferred from local authorities to the Road Safety Authority, which then outsourced the operation to three separate companies – one to take applications, another to process them, and a third to issue licenses.

Tara Robertson of the union’s Dublin City branch said the privatisation of Dublin’s refuse collection had been a complete disaster. “Within months of privatisationDublinresidents suffered a hike in bin charges. Next they were saddled with an additional cost for the collection of recyclables. Now ratepayers are forking out for the soaring costs of cleaning up industrial scale fly-tipping in parts of the city. All of this was predicted, yet the council went ahead and privatised a high-quality public service. Now we’re all paying the price,” she said.

Meanwhile, IMPACT’s Civil Service Division conference heard that public service managers were promoting outsourcing simply to meet staff reduction targets, with no regard for service quality or staff pay and conditions. Executive member Benny Conaty said office cleaning had been transferred on a wide scale to private suppliers employing workers on minimum hours and minimum pay.

“The employment moratorium has effectively become a straightjacket on the delivery of public services. Quality has suffered and, in many cases, the taxpayer ends up spending more once the loss-leader contract has run its course. It’s time the Government looked again at the recruitment embargo with a view to maintaining – and in some cases expanding – the level of public service delivery,” he said. Mr Conaty said outsourcing would be unnecessary if civil service management properly operated the redeployment arrangements in the Croke Park agreement.

Earlier, the chair of IMPACT’s local government division, Shane Lambert, said Ireland was witnessing “a process that would see local government functions eroded to the point of non-existence. “Europeans across the continent are currently debating the issues of sovereignty and local democratic control. We need to have this debate inIrelandtoo. The alternative is to let the country sleepwalk into a catastrophe of privatisation and centralised services without accountability or oversights – certainly not at local level. We could end up being the only European country without a functioning local democracy and accountability for local services,” he said.

The IMPACT local government conference passed motions condemning the “privatisation by stealth” of driving licence renewals and locally-provided water services and pledged the union to resist further privatisation of local government services. The civil service conference passed similar motions condemning privatisation.