The issue was discussed at a meeting of Council’s governance, resources and strategy committee on Wednesday, October 13 where it was raised by Craigavon councillor, Margaret Tinsley who called for Department for Infrastructure’s Minister, Nichola Mallon, to provide a roadmap out of the current situation.
Addressing the chamber, the DUP representative said she was raising the issue on behalf of the many young people, parents of young people and driving instructors who had contacted her throughout the pandemic.
Cllr Tinsley said she would not be going over past problem but expressed her exasperation that “there just seems to be no end to all of the problems”.
“During the past few weeks the Department for Infrastructure changed the appointment portal,” said Cllr Tinsley
“It was frustrating enough when a learner tried to book a test only to discover they had to wait for months before they could actually get their test. Now, with the change to the portal, if you want to change your appointment you have to cancel your test and try for an earlier date.
“That is totally disheartening. If you had four months to wait for your test previously you were able to keep trying for a cancellation. Now, that has stopped and you have to cancel your appointment and try again.”
Cllr Tinsley continued by noting the increasing frequency with which driving tests are cancelled by test centres at short notice.
The Craigavon representative said two young people had contacted her to express frustration that their tests had been cancelled just 12 hours before it was due to take place.
“To add insult to injury, they were told it was their responsibility to get a new test date, which they tried, only to discover it will be January 2022 before they can get one and because of the new system, they can’t keep trying for a cancellation without losing that date.
“To make it worse, the price of a test has increased and they have not received their refund. This is disgraceful and it is only when you experience this you understand how it is affecting our families.
“I just feel that as an elected representative I need to do everything I can to get the Department for Infrastructure to listen. At the minute any response I get back from them is ‘we are working on it’.
“What does that mean? What are they doing? All I want from them is an explanation as to how they are going to navigate their way through this crisis.”
Cllr Tinsley then proposed Council write to DfI and request an urgent meeting with the Minister to request an outline of what is being proposed to improve the current situation.
“Quite frankly it just cannot continue like this for another 12 months,” said Cllr Tinsley.
The Chair of the committee, Councillor Tim McClelland said Cllr Tinsley raised “a very important” point and asked if another councillor would second the proposal.
Alderman Stephen Moutray said he would be more than happy to second the proposal noting the human aspect of this situation before branding Minister Mallon “the Minister of dither and delay”.
“Young people are suffering mentally because of the stresses associated with all this uncertainty,” he said.
“I will second the proposal to write to the Minister and invite the Minister to come down here.
“If Minister Mallon is going to be remembered for anything, she is going to be remembered as the Minister of dither and delay throughout her tenure and that relates to nearly all aspects of her work.”
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