AS THE cost of living crisis continues to have a significant impact on the lives of people across the country, a charity group from Whitchurch is backing a petition to increase mileage allowance for volunteer drivers.

In 2011, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) set out a mileage rate of 45p per mile for reimbursing the use of private cars, either for employees or volunteers. Anything above that is regarded as taxable.

Linda Stepney, the secretary for Whitchurch Neighbourcare and a volunteer driver, has pointed out the lack of any real increase since 2011 has acted as a major deterrent to volunteer drivers, especially as the price of fuel has gone up dramatically.

Neighbourcare’s volunteer drivers take people to hospital and GP appointments, social groups, church, family events and on other important journeys. They ask clients for a donation towards the journey, but this is currently capped at the 45p rate or it would trigger taxation.

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Linda, who has been volunteering for the charity for more than 10 years said: “All the time the cost of fuel is going up, it’s becoming quite expensive to do it. I myself run a diesel car and most of us have either petrol or diesel, not electric. I take people all over the place, to all the hospitals.

“We all love what we do. I just love taking people places. I take some lovely people and I meet new people. Having lived in Whitchurch for 46 years, I now tend to take people whose children went to school with mine!

“I spend a lot of time driving and in a way can’t understand why more people don’t want to do it.”

She added: “It’s not just the cost of the fuel, it’s the running of the car. It would be tragic if we couldn’t do it.”

Linda worries that, as prices rise, people will be put off driving. Currently there are around 10 regular volunteers, but Linda needs to recruit more to maintain the service.

“It’s been such a problem getting people to drive,” she said.

“When I first took on the secretary role we had more than 30 drivers.”

To try and address these problems, the umbrella group Good Neighbours Network has set up a petition, asking that parliament consider raising the mileage rate to at least 60p per mile to ensure volunteer drivers are being fairly compensated for the use of their cars.

The petition needs to get to 100,000 signatures to be discussed in parliament.

Linda continued: “I did write recently to our MP [Kit Malthouse]. I explained it to him and I got a reply instantly saying he would speak to Rishi Sunak and I was so hopeful that I was going to get somewhere - now who knows what will happen! We’ve just got to hope the new Chancellor is nice!”

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Cllr Luigi Gregori, who sits on Andover Town Council and is also Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for North West Hampshire, has spoken out in support of the petition.

He said: “From my perspective, this is a non-political issue, and we should help volunteers who are working hard for the benefit of our communities.”

He continued: “In many cases, these volunteers are providing services that the state or councils should be doing. We cannot compensate them for their time, but we should ensure that they are not out of pocket.

“We should keep the pressure up and sign the Mileage Rate petition.”

To view the petition, which currently has more than 30,000 signatures, visit:

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