Volunteer drivers withdraw service

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Volunteer drivers who claim they are being taken for a ride after the company they work for slashed their allowance are putting their brakes on services this week.

Around 34 drivers who work for NSL Care Service are refusing to take any passengers on free trips to medical appointments after failed attempts to negotiate with the company.

Members of the Volunteer Drivers Social Committee recently met in Boston on Sunday to discuss what action to take after the company slashed their mileage allowance for over 10,000 miles from 40p a mile to 25p a mile.

Allan Harvey (71), of Church Street, Spalding, who has been a driver for three years, said: “We are not getting anywhere so we are withdrawing services.

“We would be stopping when we reached 10,000 miles anyway so we will see how they cope with it now.

“It was a hard decision for us because we enjoy our job, but we can’t afford to subsidise the service from our pensions

“Even four years ago the AA stated taking your car out costs 65p a mile. It’s just wrong.”

Last month, the NSL told the Free Press its new policy for drivers included many enhancements for volunteer drivers, one of which is an increase in the monies they are refunded for the first 10,000 miles they drive in a tax year, and the introduction of a ‘patient concession’.

A spokesman for NSL said: “We believe that we have struck a reasonable balance between reimbursing the volunteers for their actual costs, in accordance with recognised guidelines, versus minimising the need for the volunteers to incur significant additional costs and time in operating a profit based car service (akin to a taxi with the licensing and registration issues).”

However, the volunteers remain unconvinced when alternative services like Arriva still offer 44p a mile beyond 10,000 miles. Mr Harvey said: “We are perfectly capable of paying our own tax should we exceed our allowed income. We do not believe this has been done to help us at all.”

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the South Holland Parish Voluntary Car Service. Passengers pay 35p a mile. If in receipt of benefits, the fare can be claimed back if it is a hospital/medical trip. For more information, call 07939559764 or 01775 762210.