The DVLA has been reprimanded by an ombudsman for not being transparent about how it considers applications from people wanting to re-register the panel van they are converting themselves as a ‘motor caravan’.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman says it recommends that the agency should pay David Hollingsworth and Maddy Muffett, who brought their cases separately, £100 in recognition of their distress. It also calls on the agency to show how it intends to make sure that in the future, anyone making a van conversion application has sufficiently detailed information and rules to follow.

This comes after the DVLA admitted it knew that the web pages the applicants had looked at were out of date. They have now been updated.

Many DIY van converters prefer to have a van they may have bought with a ‘van with windows’ body type re-registered as a ‘motor caravan’. This can lead to cheaper MoTs, cheaper road tolls and different speed limits.

Mr Hollingsworth and Ms Muffett had their initial applications turned down. But when they asked the DVLA what they needed to do to make their van conversion re-application more likely to succeed, they were only given clues, such as adding awning rails or exterior stickers, rather than clear instructions and rules.

When they followed this advice their applications were still rejected; in the Muffett case, four times.

Successful applications to the DVLA for a change in body type to motor caravan fell by 95% between 2019 and 2020. It puts this down to a change in the way it processed applications after it realised policy had not been applied as intended. But the ombudsman ruled that not letting applicants know of this, and not being transparent about what was required, was maladministration.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: “People expect and deserve clarity and openness from public bodies like the DVLA.”

A DVLA spokesperson said: “The current guidance on vehicle body types reflects the police’s requirement to be able to easily identify vehicles in moving traffic. We are working with the police and other stakeholders to see what more can be done in this area. We have already accepted the PHSO’s recommendations in these two cases and made clear that work remains ongoing.”

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