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Wrexham charity fears closure

Chariotts provide transport for disabled people Photo: ITV News Wales

A disabled transport charity in Wrexham says it is the "victim of its own success" because it faces a VAT tax bill unless it closes the service down for part of the summer - a move that the charity claims will leave many users stranded.

Chariotts, which has been running for 15 years, transports disabled people around Wrexham at low cost in specially modified cars.

George Greenshields has been volunteering for the service for 13 years and says it is a vital lifeline.

Clearly our brief is to help people with mobility problems. The majority of our clients will be in wheelchairs. Many of them don't have the support at home that would help them go out and about. So they feel we are more of a friend than a service.

– George Greenshields, Chariotts volunteer

To cover costs, the charity charges around £3 for an average journey of three miles, which is less than half the cost of a taxi.

They're so popular in the Wrexham area, they're close to hitting the tax threshold that means they'll have to start charging clients 20% VAT. They say this will hit some of their clients hard.

To avoid hitting the threshold, they've decided to shut the service down for two weeks in August, hoping this will bring them below an income of £77,000.

Seema Day uses the service two or three times a week to attend an MS support group, meet friends and go shopping. She says the nature of her disability means she finds taxis difficult to get in and out of, and feels uncomfortable asking drivers to dismantle her scooter.

It makes me really angry. I think if the Government had to use the service and had a spouse or a relative that needed the service they would understand that without it we just wouldn't be able to get out. It just provides an extra way to get to and from places.

– Seema Day, service user

When asked to comment, a Treasury spokesperson said it was impossible to introduce an exception for charities.

In principle it would be possible to introduce a reduced rate for passenger transport. However it would not be possible to introduce such a measure that only applied to passenger transport services provided by charity; it would also need to extend to similar services provided by other passenger transport operators, including taxi services. This would represent a significant cost to the Exchequer at a time when the Government's priority is to reduce the budget deficit.

– Treasury spokesperson