…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
The news today is that the DVLA’s new website can’t cope with the web traffic.
The government here in the UK has a “digital-first policy” – whereby it wants to cut out paperwork and the human aspect of its services. They may well claim (and have calculated to back up that claim) that it will save the tax-payer money, but I’m not convinced – there is always a hefty price tax on such systems, they come in over budget, and they always have teething problems (the NHS’s new computer system debacle is a case in point). It seems we’re talked into buying into such technology and this talking begins with the people who want jobs (or want to milk the system where they can) – my logic is that if the computer system works as technology does, it will cut the number of jobs within the DVLA system and less jobs means less money all round, and thus less people being able to afford car tax. Really we need systems that provide jobs, perhaps for the sake of providing jobs because we all need a means of putting food on our table and keeping a roof over our head, but that’s perhaps fuel for a future post.
For all the people struggling to renew their vehicle’s tax today, because the new system can’t cope, I’m laughing because it was only yesterday that I cycled to my nearest Post Office (that will still handle such things) and I renewed my car tax over the counter and paid by cheque (I don’t actually like cheques but I paid it through my business accounts). It was a simple process and one I insist of carrying out in this manner, rather than renewing online – I want to support my local Post Offices in this way (because we also complain when they close) and I want the human aspect to remain. Now there are people being told to “keep trying” if the DVLA system isn’t working for them – I am sure (like the queues of traffic I experienced the other weekend in Southport) that people will do this blindly, instead of getting off their backsides and actively renewing their vehicle tax in person at their local Post Office.
Another selling-point for such online systems is that they save us time. Time for what? Living? Is this living?
I had actually left my car tax renewal to the last minute – something I haven’t done before as I’m usually well organised, and I had forgotten about the new system whereby we no longer have a paper tax disc. I was first confused when I realised I didn’t have a certificate of insurance to accompany my MOT certificate – I checked the tax renewal letter and it confirmed that I only now needed the insurance one – I failed to glance at the mention about no longer having a paper tax disc and it was only when the lady at the Post Office didn’t hand one over that I remembered. She actually didn’t need my MOT certificate and just pushed it back at me.
I will actually miss not having a tax disc in my car’s window for some reason – it was like a yearly ritual dating back to when I bought my first car.
The human aspect is lacking in other areas, outside the government too – shops (for many years in places like the USA) have had self-service checkouts which I refuse to use, out of principal, and I pity the checkout staff when they have been instructed to point queuing customers in that direction. One time I was herded in that direction by a member of staff but they carried out the transaction for me because they seemed to recognise that I wasn’t o-fey with it (I’m a computer technician by trade so if anyone could figure it out it should be me) – so it really seemed ridiculous that a member of staff was manning the self-service checkout. I’m actually quite happy spending a quiet moment in a queue to ponder the world and people around me, and rarely find queues stressful – I consider there to be something wrong with my life when I feel like I’m in that much of a hurry to get frustrated by such trivial things.