Published Thursday, 28 February 2013
Minister Attwood says he will make a case to keep the jobs in Coleraine. (© Pacemaker)
He was responding to speculation over job losses at the Coleraine DVA base, as the Department of Transport undergoes a process of centralising the service.
Mr Attwood said that retaining the posts has been a priority for him since he became Environment Minister 20 months ago.
"I stand fully square with the Coleraine staff and Trade Unions in working to protect the DVA jobs," he said.
"Over that time I have met the Department of Transport (DfT) Ministers twice, the NI Secretary of State, and had a number of conversations with London about the multiple reasons why the DVA jobs should stay."
Mr Attwood said the Coleraine base should stay due to the quality of service, value for investment and also the work it provides in an area of need.
"I believe very strongly in these arguments and in the DVA jobs and why I oppose centralisation of vehicle licencing in Swansea. That is why I backed industrial action by DVA staff against London proposals to do this and centralise in Swansea."
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency announced in December 2011 that it was considering shutting down its 39 centres and basing its services in Swansea.
Northern Ireland has around 300 staff doing licensing work.
The Government are not targeting an underperforming agency with a need to make savings as the DVLA is self-financing and produces a significant operating surplus.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell
"Last year the London Government announced this is what they would do and have now been doing in Britain- closing down vehicle licencing offices and moving the functions to Swansea," Mr Attwood continued.
"To date, London have not said the same for NI in part because of DoE and union opposition."
The minister will travel to London next week for talks where he will make his case to the Department of Transport, following on from a dossier sent to Westminster outlining his argument.
He added: "DfT has said to me no decision would be made without consulting with me.
"I will hold London to that commitment and will continue the work of the last 20 months to protect jobs. London have made that pledge-it must not be reneged on."
Local Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín said the closure would have a "severe economic impact" in the area.
"The office which employs over 300 people is under threat of being moved to Swansea and I believe would have consequences right across the North," he said.
"The address system in the North with townlands and other peculiarities would result in people having to return licenses as information could be incorrect."
East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said every effort should be made to save the regional office.
"Since re-organisation of DVLA began first in 2005 I have campaigned to maintain a DVLA presence in Northern Ireland and in particular Coleraine which is the regional head office," he said.
"I am again lobbying the current Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond MP, on the importance of retaining DVLA jobs in Northern Ireland.
"To close in Northern Ireland will permit more evasion here, as our land border with the Irish Republic will make a centralised service in Swansea less productive and less likely to prevent fraud."
Ulster Unionist Environment spokesperson Tom Elliott MLA said he was deeply concerned by the possibility of job losses.
"For a number of years now rumours have surfaced periodically about closing the DVLNI offices in Coleraine and transferring the jobs to the DVLA in Swansea," he said.
"I have raised this issue in the past with the Environment Minister and he is assured of my full support in his talks with the UK Transport Minister on this matter."
Mr Elliott said he has also contacted Ulster Unionist Peers in the House of Lords to ask them to lobby the Government on this issue.
© UTV News