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I will assume most people reading this already know that the DVLA sells on drivers’ names and addresses to private parking firms, at £2.50 a time. This is public information.

Given DVLA sold over 3 million peoples' addresses in 2015, the DVLA made in excess of £7.5m from this. DVLA PR department say they make no profit, of course.

This number is getting bigger every year.

More data sold, more money coming in to DVLA coffers. But no profit, they say.

I note that this data is being transferred to parking firms that, in the words of the Transport Committee, “operate on the edge of legality”;

the same parking firms that have appeared on various consumer watchdog programs, such as BBC Watchdog;

the same parking firms that Citizens’ Advice Scotland runs a separate campaign about;

the same parking firms that have been accused of, and some taken to court for allegations of fraud etc etc.

And other things like this:

Why would the DVLA want to pass on millions of peoples’ information to firms that operate on the 'edge of legality'? After all, DVLA insists, THEY DO NOT MAKE PROFIT FROM THIS!!

CaseHub’s theory is that they are lying. They are making a lot of money. Let us explain:

2+2 = 5 in Swansea HQ

The DVLA in December 2013 said it cost £2.84 to transfer on each piece of data. They broke that down as follows:

Postage and printing?

This one is very odd because almost all of driver data is disclosed electronically. There is no posting and printing involved.

Salaries are an odd one to mention, because on own DVLA’s admission, their selling-data regime (known as the ‘electronic link’) has no human oversight.

Why, having a human manually check the parking firm application prior to releasing the data would actually cost them £2.50!

For 2015, the combination of non-existent postage/printing costs and inexplicable salaries added up to £4.3m.

Development costs?

This one I don’t really get – Is this on top of the £5m cost it cost them to build the system back in 1996? Since 2006 the DVLA has apparently racked up £10.6m of ‘development costs’ for its data sharing system. Seems expensive.

Overhead costs.

Thx for specifying DVLA. Whatever it is, it has cost £8.3m since 2006. My guess is more of these:

Our thesis is that the actual cost of transferring data automatically is pennies. DVLA actually makes 2 pounds-something for every persons' data set released.

Whatever it is, the DVLA itself cannot keep to its own story

Prior to 2014, the DVLA have always insisted that they do not make profit in the sale of driver data.

But DVLA has previously admitted that it has made a surplus!

They label this as 'contribution to Agency overhead costs'.

While insisting no profit is made, DVLA also maintains that taxpayer money is not used to subsidise selling on driver data to parking firms. If they do not make profit, nor use public money, it means that they break even:

But in 2014 the DVLA was saying that taxpayer money was being used to subsidise the sale of driver data to parking co's:

So, is the DVLA using taxpayer money or not? Is it making a profit or not? Why are they maintaining both narratives at the same time, despite them releasing data which proves both of these statements as wrong?

Up to February 2015, the DVLA kept to the new story that there was a publicly-funded shortfall:

But a few months later (September 2015), DVLA once again began saying that public money is not being used:

This is odd.

The explanation

It's a combination of word-play and lies.

Historically, when asked for driver data, DVLA had a civil servant manually process the application before handing any information over to a parking firm (or police, local council etc). This cost them £2.50 of civil servant time, calculated through a time-in-motion study. This explains salary, postage and printing costs: it was done manually and sent off in the post.

That was a long time ago though. Whenever asked about the cost of data transmission today, including in Parliament in 2014, the DVLA /Dpt Transport conveniently assumes that are were being asking about the old, antiquated paper system – the one that accounts for next to nil of all requests. Almost all data requests are electronic. No postage, no printing, definitely not £4m of salaries per year.

Through using figures for the old manual system that genuinely cost £2.50 per request, DVLA has created the impression that there is a publicly-funded shortfall. After all, tax-payer subsidy of parking firms is definitely better than MAKING MILLIONS FROM SELLING ON MILLIONS OF DATA SETS AT 2.50 EACH!!

So, have the DVLA 'lied' to Parliament and the public? Yes.

  • They have intentionally misled people through the manipulation of figures and bizarre assumptions about what people really mean when they are asked about the cost of transmitting data to parking firms, in FOI requests, media interviews etc.
  • They deny using tax-payer money, even though on their own admission they use tax payer money (we maintain this is false in any event)
  • They have denied making a profit when all available data suggests the very opposite (non-existent P&P costs; their admission of a surplus in 2013-14);

In summary: in the attempt to weave a narrative about not making profit, nor using public money, they have done the very opposite, and oscillated between apparently losing money (a ridiculous suggestion giving everything is automatic) and breaking even (which is not true).

We're kidding about buying golden Macbooks: word on the street is that senior DVLA staff get bonuses based on data sold.

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