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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 08:27 GMT
Volunteer drivers now face checks
A council is holding a meeting on new stricter laws coming into effect in January for volunteer drivers used by charities, councils and the NHS.

North Norfolk District Council is organising the event on 28 February at their offices in Cromer.

Since September taxi drivers have had to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check every three years, pass a medical and have an operator licence.

Volunteers and their vehicles may now be subject to checks, the council said.

CRB vetting costs 36, medical tests up to 90 and an operator's licence, valid for five years, 129 in North Norfolk.

Vehicles must be inspected every year at an independent garage appointed by the council.

The inspection is more stringent than an MoT test, but the cost is included in the licence fee.

Vehicles must be plated annually at a cost of 123 each year to show licence details.

The new rules are contained in the Road Safety Act 2006 which was passed to help ensure passengers can travel in safety and confidence, a council spokesman said.

"While the implications have been clear for taxi firms, the change in the law could also affect the not-for-profit sector.

"Councils and charities use volunteer drivers to help people access services or attend events and activities but passengers - often infirm or vulnerable people - have not had the same protection as fare-paying travellers.

"North Norfolk District Council is organising a free seminar to discuss the implications of the new rules for the voluntary sector."

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