The closure of the road taxation offices in the county for eight days in each instance in Drogheda and Dundalk provoked a strong re-action at the monthly meeting of Louth County Council on Monday, with calls to protect motorists against prosecution who could not tax vehicles.
The offices in the two towns are to be closed two days a week over the next number of weeks. The reduced opening hours will begin this week.
The meeting was told that it was to allow staff to deal with a backlog in issuing the new plastic card driving licences introduced in January. A spokeswoman told however, that it might not take as long as envisaged and the opening hours will revert back quicker in that event to the usual times .
The two days selected for closure are the quietest , and it was necessary as there was a whole new process in issuing the new driving licences.
Software was installed and there were problems with training, and created the backlog with the new licences. Motor tax renewals were up to date.
It was also explained that the council drafted in staff from other areas, but still weren’t able to catch up and as a last resort decided to close the office for a number of days for a short period.
It was open to motorists to drop in their renewals in the main office, and council reception staff will accept documentation for processing.
It was refuted that customers were not being attended to at lunch hour. With all the windows open it would still be difficult to cope at certain times of the month, and staff had to take their lunch breaks, it was pointed out.
Furthermore it was stated that the offices had to close at 4pm to reconcile stock against payments and the main system in Shannon closed down after 5pm.
Colr Marianne Butler who raised the issue said she would like to know if something could be done. She was really afraid that it would lead to an issue for people with Gardai, and would like to see the offices kept open.
Councillor Edel Corrigan said it was another example of pure farce by the Government, with the introduction of the new driving licence scheme without proper planning and administration. They were looking to increase intake but services were being cut back.
Councillor Paul Bell said the Department should be told if there was a shortfall in revenue it was due to the bad application of policy
The council should also try to ensure the public did not run the risk of being prosecuted if they tried to tax vehicles.