DVLA tax disc renewal website buckles under pressure of high demand

Tax disc renewal site taken offline by ‘unprecedented demand’ as new service comes online and tax disc by post is phased out

The DVLA’s new vehicle tax site has crashed due to the large volume of people attempting to renew their tax online after paper discs were abolished in favour of digital records.

The site was experiencing more than 6,000 visits a minute at 9.43pm on Tuesday, according to the DVLA, but remained up but by Wednesday morning when the new rules came into effect it was overwhelmed.

“We are currently experiencing high volumes of traffic to our online vehicle tax service please keep trying. Sorry for the inconvenience,” the DVLA said via its official Twitter account.

The site labelled as a “beta” service despite alternatives to the new system not being in place, is part of the government’s new digital-first policy led by the Government Digital Service (GDS), which the head of the civil service declared was unlikely to change.

The DVLA said that over 250,000 motorists had managed to renew their vehicle tax by 9.43pm on Tuesday.

Despite the DVLA’s urges to “keep trying” the site was completely unresponsive when the Guardian tried to access the service. A renewal service via phone is also available, but customers on Twitter claimed both the site and the phone service were inoperable.

Others cried out as they had spent all night attempting to renew their vehicle tax as required by law.

Inevitably, angry users frustrated by the site’s failure hit out at the DVLA and its new system.

The new vehicle tax service relies on the DVLA’s digital records and a vehicle’s number plate, rather than a paper tax disc that must be displayed in the windscreen of the vehicle. The new system is meant to make vehicle taxation easier and less frustrating for road users as part of the government’s new customer-centric focus.

“At the heart of all this change are the users: people who need to use government services, from the trivial to the life-changing. All these services, all the platforms, everything we build from now on should be focused on meeting user needs,” the head of the UK civil service, cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood recently wrote in a blog post discussing the changes in the way UK citizens interact with and use government services.

The plan is to put every service online that can be online. In its first three years, GDS prioritised six popular government services including voter registration, patent renewal and the booking of prison visits, and has 19 more in development not yet ready to fully replace older systems. The vehicle tax service is one of those still in development in a “beta” phase.

The DVLA had not responded to request for comment.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 1st October 2014 11.59 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010