Car clampings for unpaid tax are up 80% in two years

Joanne McCusker

Clamping of cars for non-payment of vehicle tax has soared since the paper tax disc was scrapped two years ago.

Figures obtained by BBC News through a Freedom of Information request show an 80% rise to more than 9,000 clampings a month.

The DVLA says it has stepped up enforcement to send a message to drivers that they have to pay.

But some people complain they forgot to renew because they didn’t have a disc on the windscreen to remind them.

Joanne McCusker, a nurse from Salford, came home after a 13-hour shift to find that her car had been clamped.

“I think it’s awful,” she says, “In all my years of driving, I’ve missed one payment and that was only since they’ve removed the tax disc.”

Joanne had to pay £340 before she could get the clamp removed.

The charges can rack up even higher than that. There is a £100 release fee on the first day, then the vehicle is taken to the car pound, where the fee doubles to £200.

Add to that a car pound charge of £21 a day and a possible Late Licensing Penalty of £80 — and, of course, the tax you owe.

After seven to 14 days, depending on the state of the car, they can send it to be crushed, broken up or sold.

The big increase in clamping has coincided with the DVLA farming out the work to a private firm, NSL, whose job is to scour each UK postcode area twice a year for untaxed vehicles.

Its 75 clamping vans are equipped with cameras and the DVLA’s database. They can identify the non-payers by checking number plates as they drive by.

“The law is that you pay your tax,” says the DVLA’s chief executive, Oliver Morley, “The vast majority pay with no problem at all.”

But there seems little doubt that the big increase in clampings is partly the result of people forgetting to pay without the paper tax disc to jog their memory.

The data obtained by BBC News through a Freedom of Information request shows that there were 5,100 a month over the six months up to October, 2014, when the disc was abolished.

However, in the latest six months, up to October this year, the average shot up to 9,200 a month.

Oliver Morley points out that car owners are sent reminders, either to their home address or by email. But mix-ups can happen when people move or switch emails.

That’s what was behind Joanne McCusker’s clamping. She moved and never received the reminder.

Her family had informed the DVLA that the addresses on their driving licences needed to change, thinking that all the DVLA’s records would be updated at the same time. But they were wrong.

“I think it’s a bit heavy-handed. There could be another way, I’m sure, rather than have it clamped,” Joanne says.

“It is very unfair – I was quite shocked and upset.”