Why do motorcyclists pay so much for tests and MOTs?
For many years, it has been more expensive to learn to ride a motorcycle than to drive a car because of the extra practical manoeuvres test a novice rider must undergo, which can only be carried out on purpose-built tracks which are only available at a few DVA testing centres across the country. Apart from the added expense compared to car testing, this also leads to long journeys to and from those special tracks for many novice riders.
From October 1, the DVA Northern Ireland is increasing all practical driving test fees and vehicle test fees. The new charges, along with the £23 theory test fee, will mean a novice rider will have to pay £148 (at the weekday rate) to complete their licence tests. When you add on the cost of Compulsory Basic Training, this total can rise to £300-plus. By comparison, a novice car driver will pay only £88 (weekday rate) for their licence tests. As usual, no reason has been given why motorcycle testing costs so much more than car testing. Neither is there any explanation why a motorcycle MOT test increases by more than 50 per cent to £34 (£4.35 more than the rate in GB) yet a car MOT test, by comparison, only increases by about 26 per cent to £38, which is £16.85 below the current GB rate. Motorcycles are an accepted form of sustainable, economical, low-impact, low-pollution and congestion-beating transport relied upon by many for daily commuting to work and places of learning. In fact, almost half of NI riders use their bikes for commuting to work or college and a number of local authorities in GB actively include motorcycles in their transport strategies, yet the DVA in Northern Ireland is actively penalising us. This is blatant discrimination against motorcyclists based on our choice of transport and this institutionalised robbery of Northern Ireland’s motorcyclists will not go unchallenged.
NI rep for Motorcycle Action Group UK
Residents’ human rights being eroded
I write this letter more in frustration than in hope. On an almost daily basis we are hearing stories, even seeing videos online, of what can only described as the onset of an epidemic in the Lagan Valley area, ie Poleglass, Twinbrook, Lagmore. Discarded needles are being found in alleyways all around Poleglass. Drug dealing and even cul-de-sacs being blocked with residents being abused for having the temerity to ask to be allowed past to get to a hospice to visit a dying mother. This in itself should be an indicator of how low this area has been allowed to sink. Policing is non-existent. Of course the usual suspects will crow from their office chairs that Sinn Féin is working to enhance the area, all the while ignoring the fact that as we get nice green areas the lives and morals and indeed human rights of the residents here are being eroded to such an extent that most people would rather move if possible. There may be political representation in the council and policing boards but it’s non-existent on the ground, especially where anti-social activities are concerned. We need, in the absence of proper policing, a community response similar to that in Dublin where the residents realised if they wanted to live in peace, they themselves had to take back control of the streets.
Right to worship is a human right
Fr Tim Bartlett is quite right to highlight his deep concern about the adverse impact of last Sunday’s Belfast half marathon on his parishioners as they sought to attend worship. What he has had to say about the incident at St Mary’s ought to alarm all who value civil and religious liberty. As an evangelical lobby group, the Caleb Foundation has repeatedly raised the issue of the Sunday marathon and its effect on churches with marathon organisers and others who have been supportive of such Sunday events. I have also had opportunity to debate it on the radio. While we recognise that most marathons are held on Sunday, Belfast is still a church-going city and since the change from May Day Monday to Sunday for the main marathon, there has been considerable disruption to church life across the city. Our representations on behalf of churches are received with apparent understanding and sympathy by event organisers, but then seem to be ignored.
As Fr Bartlett has said, the right to worship is a human right. Those in political life who repeatedly promote a rights-based agenda in the public square are very quick to emphasise the rights of a selective range of interest groups. Will they now speak up in defence of the right to freedom of worship? We would also be interested in the thoughts of the organisers of last Sunday’s half marathon event.
The Caleb Foundation Belfast
Difficult times ahead for health service
Professor Deirdre Heenan – ‘Bunker mentality bad for our health’ (September 18) –rightly points out the huge disconnect between what is happening on the ground every day in our hospitals and the views of the Department of Health. While I don’t doubt they can see the pressures and dread the waiting list statistics as much as those on the lists, the sense of a lack of direction is palpable.
The fact that we need a health minister in place is a given, but alongside that we need to see proper, realistic workforce planning, an acknowledgment of how bad things are for staff on the ground and a willingness to work with staff to address these issues and reduce levels of stress and burnout. Underpinning this is the need for a three-year budget that addresses the ongoing pay disparities and begins the process of making sure staff are paid properly for the work they do.
A very difficult winter lies ahead with the longest and still growing waiting lists, an underfunded service and too few doctors which will stress patients and doctors to levels we have never seen before.
DR TOM BLACK
Chair of BMA Northern Ireland Council