PCS slam 'misleading' comments from Julie Lennard in Transport Select Committee

27 Jan 2021

Ms Lennard who is the Chief Executive of DVLA was grilled by the committee over the huge outbreak of Covid-19, with 535 cases reported since September.

Transport Select Committee Chair Huw Merriman took the DVLA CEO to task over the recording of Covid figures.

"If I had a grand total of 546, and 535 of those were from September, I wouldn't write a letter and point it to my attention that it was a cumulative number stretching back from March, when March to September is a grand total of 11," Mr Merriman said.

"I found it rather misleading," he added.

When asked about how many times she had visited staff at the DVLA workplace since September, Ms Lennard said: "six or seven." This was despite claiming that DVLA is "Covid secure."

HR and estates director Louise White also gave evidence to the committee, saying she had last been in the office in October. 

Both DVLA representatives claimed that having over 2,000 staff in the workplace was acceptable, with Ms Lennard dismissing testimony staff members have made in the media. 

According to Observer on Sunday this week, a staff member using the pseudonym Jim Lewis, said the virus had ripped through the centre after the first cases emerged in September. “It actually started in my zone,” he told the newspaper. “It just spread like wildfire. Loads have tested positive. More than I can count.”

Mr Lewis, who has had to self-isolate six times, said contact centre staff were not able to wear masks and were sitting close together. “We sit back-to-back, just one metre apart,” he said. “They say ‘the two-metre rule only applies if you’re face to face’.”

During PMQs, Labour MP Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) asked Boris Johnson: “Given that the Prime Minister has already said today he’ll take full responsibility for all the actions his government has taken during the pandemic, will he confirm that this will include the woeful and reckless management of the Covid outbreak at the DVLA Government sites in my constituency?

“And will he also ensure that his Transport Secretary is held accountable for the inexcusable damage and devastation that this has caused?”

Mr Johnson responded: “We’ve been working flat-out on the problem at the DVLA and all staff who can work from home are doing so. Measures have been taken to minimise the number of people on the site at any one time.

“And more than 2,000 tests have been carried out by the DVLA in the last fortnight alone with all the results so far coming back negative.”

Mr Johnson's response along with that of DVLA CEO Julie Lennard has been woeful. PCS believe the government should today be telling DVLA to instruct staff to go home and only allow a skeleton workforce to remain, to deal with critical emergencies, like they did during the first lockdown in March. 

PCS is consulting DVLA members on the next steps and if ministers do not take the necessary steps to keep staff safe by sending them home, the union will take the action that is required.

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