The deserted DVLA car park in Swansea – and the small firms nearby that have been ruined

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Bryan Thomas is the third generation of his family to run the butcher’s shop in Morriston on the outskirts of Swansea. 

But the dishes in the window that once displayed prime cuts and sausages now lie empty.

Much of Mr Thomas’s trade came from workers at the nearby Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, but the reluctance of civil servants to return to their desks means fewer customers.

The nearly empty car park for workers at Swansea¿s DVLA office is pictured above. The Mail on Sunday counted just five vehicles at the sprawling site late on Wednesday morning, despite Boris Johnson¿s plea to civil servants to get back to their offices

The nearly empty car park for workers at Swansea’s DVLA office is pictured above. The Mail on Sunday counted just five vehicles at the sprawling site late on Wednesday morning, despite Boris Johnson’s plea to civil servants to get back to their offices

‘Until the DVLA staff return to work here, there’s no point,’ says Mr Thomas.

‘Normally the metal dishes in the display window would be overflowing with fresh meat, much of it bought by the DVLA staff up the road.

‘They’d come in during their break and buy meat for their supper that evening. They have fridges at work so they could keep it cool until it was time to go home. Now, I guess they’re getting supermarket deliveries to their homes instead. It’s not their fault, I know that. Management are slowly bringing them back but it’s too slowly for my business, I’m afraid.’

Bryan Thomas is the third generation of his family to run the butcher¿s shop in Morriston on the outskirts of Swansea. But the dishes in the window that once displayed prime cuts and sausages now lie empty

Bryan Thomas is the third generation of his family to run the butcher’s shop in Morriston on the outskirts of Swansea. But the dishes in the window that once displayed prime cuts and sausages now lie empty

The DVLA car park is almost as empty as Mr Thomas’s window. The Mail on Sunday counted just five vehicles at the sprawling site late on Wednesday morning, despite Boris Johnson’s plea to civil servants to get back to their offices.

The Prime Minister has ordered mandarins to provide weekly figures on how many officials have returned. 

The Prime Minister has ordered mandarins to provide weekly figures on how many officials have returned. The DVLA office is seen above

The Prime Minister has ordered mandarins to provide weekly figures on how many officials have returned. The DVLA office is seen above

He wants 80 per cent of staff to be back in the office at some point during the working week by the end of September. 

There is little sign of a positive response, certainly not at the DVLA, where many of its workforce of 5,344 are staying away from the 1960s 16-storey building.

Reji Joseph, owner of the nearby Taste Buds cafe, surveys his empty chairs as he explains how he has been forced to cut his opening times.

‘Normally, these tables would be full of DVLA staff popping in for a cup of coffee and a toastie, or whatever,’ he says. 

‘But it’s deserted now. I’m really worried. I’ve worked out that my takings are down more than 50 per cent at the moment. This business will fold if more DVLA employees don’t return to their office desks soon.’

Down the road, the future of florist Sian Evans has been secured only by signing contracts with local funeral directors as DVLA custom dried up. 

Her shop opened two years ago and was ‘starting to make headway’ before the lockdown in March.

‘Before then, there was a constant stream of people coming in for flowers and gifts. Many would spend time browsing, then buy several things,’ she says.

‘Now, it’s one customer at a time to comply with Covid regulations and they buy the one thing they came in for and then go.

‘In addition, we badly miss the DVLA staff’s custom. They would always be dropping in to buy big bunches of flowers for loved ones or to brighten up their homes, or maybe just their desk at work.

Down the road, the future of florist Sian Evans has been secured only by signing contracts with local funeral directors as DVLA custom dried up

Down the road, the future of florist Sian Evans has been secured only by signing contracts with local funeral directors as DVLA custom dried up

‘But everything has changed. We’ve got all these lovely colourful fragrant flowers in here and people seem nervous about coming in.’

In July, the Government dropped its formal advice that people should work from home if possible.

But Britain seems reluctant to return to the office, with some cities at just 17 per cent of pre-lockdown worker levels. 

Most of those who have come back work for private companies.

The Cabinet Office has not revealed how many civil servants are back at their desk and last week would only repeat its target. The DVLA did not respond to requests for comment.

CBI chief Dame Carolyn Fairbairn says town centres face a dire future, adding: ‘The cost of office closures is becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade. This comes at a high price for local businesses, jobs and communities.’

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