A Long Sutton businessman has slammed the Government for cashing in on drivers by fining them for not renewing their road tax.
Ex-South Holland district councillor David Wilkinson was left in disbelief by figures which showed a 33 per cent rise in the number of fines issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for failure to tax a vehicle or declare it as off the road.
The figures from the DVLA, obtained by Mr Wilkinson under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, revealed that between October 1 2014 – when the paper road tax disc was withdrawn from vehicle display – and January 31 2016, almost 660,000 drivers were fined.
This compared with just under 494,000 between October 1 2012 and September 30 2014, a difference Mr Wilkinson described as “phenomenal”.
Mr Wilkinson, who runs a motorbike spares business from his home in Wisbech Road, Long Sutton, said: “I received a fine of £40 for not renewing the road tax on my vehicle and declaring another one as off the road.
“But I hadn’t received a reminder from the DVLA to do it and so I appealed to them.
“Then I got a letter back from the DVLA which said that they didn’t have a statutory duty to remind me that my vehicle needed its road tax renewing and that my fine was now £80.
“But when I looked on the letter and saw that I had anothed five days to pay the original £40 fine, that didn’t please me very much so I rang the DVLA up and paid them £40.”
However, Mr Wilkinson decided to take the matter further by asking the DVLA for the number of fines given out to people for not taxing their vehicles or making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).
Since October 1 2014, an electronic system has been in place where vehicle owners can pay online, either by direct debit, phone or at a post office.
Mr Wilkinson said: “I wrote to the DVLA and asked them, under the FOI Act 2000, for the amount of people fined both before and after the paper road tax disc was scrapped.
“There was a considerable difference in the amount of fines in the two years before the paper road tax disc was scrapped and the 16 months after it. “By taking away the paper disc, which was a visual reminder to renew it, the amount of people who are receiving a fine is phenomenal and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the difference.”
According to figures from the Department of Transport released last December, the paperless road tax costs the Government about £45 million a year in lost revenue, meaning that more than 500,000 unlicensed vehicles are on the road.
This is compared to an annual saving for the Government of about £7 million in administrative costs.
Mr Wilkinson said: “Motorists are hit hard in this area where we have no choice but to own a vehicle.
“Road tax and car insurance both keep on going up, pressurising people to get rid of older vehicles, so it’s perfectly obvious to me that the Government is going to benefit from not sending people reminders to renew their road tax or SORN.
“The DVLA’s official response is that they don’t have a statutury obligation to inform you to renew your road tax.
“But there a lot of people who can’t afford to be fined £40 and this issue needs to be highlighted.”
Tony Ackroyd, director of operations and customer services at the DVLA, said: “We do not make a profit from vehicle enforcement action, but we do operate a comprehensive package of measures to make vehicle tax easy to pay but hard to avoid.
“In the past year, this has included writing to every registered vehicle keeper in the UK at least once to remind them that the vehicle tax rules have changed.
“Also, we still send renewal reminders since we got rid of the tax disc and will continue to do so, though we are not legally obliged to send them.”
Don’t get caught out’, warning from DVLA