Diocese of Portsmouth

    Cathedral clergyman prompts Parliamentary debate

    6 July 2023

    A CATHEDRAL cleric sparked a Parliamentary debate about how employees and volunteers are reimbursed for using private cars.

    Canon Nick Ralph, who ministers at Portsmouth Cathedral and also runs a network of voluntary care groups, attended the debate in the Houses of Parliament on July 3. His online petition urging MPs to look again at the reimbursement of car mileage rates attracted more than 41,000 signatures, which helped to prompt the formal debate.

    As part of his role, Nick runs the Good Neighbours Network, which co-ordinates the work of more than 100 volunteer groups across Hampshire. These volunteers make thousands of car journeys each year, taking the elderly, vulnerable and infirm to medical appointments or to shop for groceries

    The volunteers freely give their time, but are often – but not always – reimbursed for using their cars to make these important journeys.

    But the HMRC recommended mileage rate for reimbursing those who use private cars – both employees and volunteers – has remained fixed at 45p per mile since 2011. This can make it harder to recruit volunteers, especially with the recent increases in fuel prices.

    Last year Nick created an online petition on the Parliament website, urging the government to increase the reimbursement of car mileage rates to 60p per mile, and it attracted more than 41,000 signatures. So he was there for the debate in the Grand Committee Room in Parliament.

    He said: “A variety of MPs spoke, all very much in support, and it was clear that there was total cross-party support for change. The Treasury Minister, Gareth Davies, responded for the government, but in reality, it was not possible or appropriate for him to signal anything at this.

    “Any actual change could only be implemented at a ‘fiscal event’ such as the budget or the autumn statement. We will have now to wait and see whether that is included but if you are inclined to write to your MP, then the early autumn might be the time to do it!

    “My interest is in volunteer drivers, but of course this affects all private businesses and public organisations across the country. Every employer relies on their employees using their private cars to get to appointments.

    “We’ve seen how keen people are to meet face-to-face, rather than virtually, especially post-pandemic. But every employee has effectively seen an erosion in their reimbursement for doing so for the past 12 years.”

    Any organisation can reimburse employees and volunteers at a higher rate than 45p per mile, but anything extra is classified as a benefit in kind and the recipient is required to fill in a tax return. Any organisation can also pay less than 45p a mile, if they wish to do so. Nick’s petition urged MPs to vote in favour of increasing the recommended rate to 60p per mile.

    You can read the transcript of the debate here. For more information, see www.goodneighbours.org.uk

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