Driving instructors staged a protest in South Shields on Thursday against the closure of their local driving test centre, hoping their actions will help overturn the decision.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) plans to close the South Shields driving test center on April 10, along with a number of other test centers across the country.
In response to the cuts, 40 local instructors staged a ‘slow down’ protest in their learner cars this afternoon, driving slowly down two lanes between the Bede Industrial Estate test center and the town hall.
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Although examiners will be redeployed to nearby testing centres, such as Sunderland, 5.6 miles away, protesters say there will still be job losses in the industry as a result.
Jarrow MP Kate Osbourne, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck and South Tyneside Council Leader Tracey Dixon have all shown their support for the protesters and are calling for the center to remain open.
Vicky Holt, who is a freelance driving instructor, said: “The DVSA say people don’t need courses in Sunderland to take their exam there, but I’ve created a poll which shows the majority of people would be uncomfortable doing a test on roads they don’t know.”
The 51-year-old, who has worked in the industry for 12 years and specializes in teaching people with disabilities, said: “Driving instructors will have to take customers from South Shields to Sunderland for each lesson, which means that the price and duration of the courses will increase.
“It’s detrimental because some people can only afford a one hour lesson, while some people with disabilities are not comfortable with a longer duration.
“We have done the calculations and estimate it will cost around £250 more for each learner, and there will also be increased pollution as people are forced to make unnecessary journeys.
“Also, if we increase our class hours, the waiting list for instructors will also increase. At the moment, it takes 6 weeks to be seen!”
Vicky thinks there are about 100 instructors in the area who will be affected by the closure.
And the community has received a lot of support from locals, with a petition against the closure approaching 4,000 signatures.
She added: “The DVSA is a law in itself, and it has tried to make this decision without consulting those who will be directly affected.
“If the closure continues, our research shows we will lose 30 instructors from South Shields. Thirteen said they would not continue to teach if the center closed and another 17 said they would no longer take clients from South Shields .
“It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back after being treated atrociously by the DVSA during the pandemic.”
A DVSA spokesperson said in response: ‘We have made the decision to close the South Shields driving test center as there are other centers nearby where the same services can be moved.
“We understand that this change may cause inconvenience to some, but we have worked hard to ensure that there is no change in the number of tests provided to local applicants, and that no tests have been lost following the closure.
“It is essential that learners are prepared to drive safely on all types of road before taking their test, rather than just learning driving test center routes.”
Jarrow MP Kate Osbourne is meeting with the DVSA on Friday to try to convince them to reverse their decision.
In a statement issued on January 25, she said: “It is extremely disappointing that the DVSA has not even consulted the driving instructor community at all about their plans and intends to close this vital local service. , which has served South Tyneside for decades.
“Together with the driving instructor community, I will continue to fight this closure. I have also spoken with the leader of South Tyneside Council, Councilor Tracey Dixon, and my colleague Emma Lewell-Buck MP, who also offered their support, as well as many local councilors from the Jarrow constituency.
“I maintain my belief that the Bede Industrial Estate test center in Jarrow must be protected at all costs.
“This impending closure has rightly caused anger and upheaval among local driving instructors, their students, the local community and South Tyneside as a whole, and I fear many may leave the profession for good.
“I have already called on the Transport Secretary to end these closures and will continue to press the Government on this issue.”
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