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Deadline looms for Breckland car schemes

Community car scheme volunteers in Breckland must sign up to a new regulatory conditions by October 1 or risk losing their council funding.

The deadline was agreed by members of the district’s cabinet last week in order to prevent the authority being exposed to legal claims for any potential accidents.

The council supports more than 20 of the non-profit schemes, where volunteer drivers use their own vehicles to provide essential journeys for people without access to a car or public transport.

A formal governance agreement drafted in 2008 requires community drivers to meet a number of criteria to qualify for funding, including Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks and medical tests every three years.

But so far only eight operators have signed up, while others have questioned the need for the new requirements and what the implication would be for data protection or driver recruitment.

Councillors agreed to set a deadline of October 1 for car schemes in the district to agree to the funding agreement, after which a six-month grace period would be allowed for the changes to be implemented. Following that, funding could be suspended if the new governance arrangements were not adhered to.

Council leader William Nunn said: “Unfortunately, litigation is becoming a key issue. If someone injured themselves getting into my car I am sure they would sue me even if they were my friend. That is not my ethos, but it is other people’s ethos and it is why we need to protect those involved in running these schemes.”

District councillor Robin Goreham said: “While having regard to the correct governance and ensuring all the legal loopholes are closed, we don’t want to negate the usefulness of these schemes, . The vast majority of them are run extremely well and I would not want red tape – albeit really important red tape – to get in the way of such a good service.”

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